from the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Advent
by Janet Klasson BSP
"John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey." (Mark 1: 4, 6)
The headlines in today's newspaper reported the murder of two teenagers in a city near where I live in two unrelated incidents of senseless violence. Kids killing kids. On any given day in any given city we read of such horrors and worse! The world's moral compass is spinning out of control. The Culture of Death has infiltrated so many hearts that it has made very crooked the way for the Lord.
Today's headlines proclaim more than anything how desperately the world needs a modern-day John the Baptist, someone who will "make straight the way of the Lord" and "call sinners to repentance". Those who "have ears" know that today there is a voice crying in the wilderness, a new Elijah, a new John, yet someone more worthy than either. For over a century, this voice has been heard repeatedly, calling us unworthy sinners to repentance.
The voice belongs to the Mother of God herself who, in her love for sinners, has left the glory of heaven to sully her pure feet on the wicked soil of earth. Her chaste gaze comes to rest on souls stained by horrible sins. These are the distasteful locusts she suffers for our sake. Sin is the camel's hair that chafes her delicate skin. The Blessed Mother's love for sinners for the sake of Jesus is the leather belt that binds her to us. Those whose lips proclaim the name of Jesus, but whose hearts are far from Him are the wild honey that promises sweetness but is peppered with impurities and comes with the sting of betrayal. The holy Mother of God endures the wilderness of sinful earth in order to call sinners to repentance. If she will endure so much for our sake, can we refuse her what she asks?
The Blessed Mother's urgent message at Lourdes, at Fatima and at all other places she has graced with her presence has been: "Be converted. Fast and pray for sinners." She calls us first of all to repent of our own sinfulness, for until we have turned our backs on sin, our prayers and fasting will profit no one. Once we have turned away from sin and are living sacramental lives, then we can begin to fast and pray for sinners. Only then will our prayers, given through her to Jesus, begin to bear fruit in souls.
A life of penance seems too small a thing to offer for all she has done for us, most especially in giving up her Son for us on Calvary. But penance is what she asks. It is what she wants of us; she has been very clear on that. We as penitents are called by Mary to participate in her mission to "make straight the way of the Lord". If we give our meager efforts to her with great love, she will transform them, as Mother Theresa has said, into "something beautiful for Christ".
For my part, the words of St. Francis convict me: "Brothers, today let us begin, for so far we have done nothing!"
May this Advent be a time of great joy and hope for us, that our small efforts given to Mary may prepare the way of the Lord this Christmas and indeed hasten the coming of the Kingdom. May the Blessed Mother intercede for us and grant us the graces we need to be instruments in her mission.
Janet Klasson BSP
A WOMAN CLOTHED WITH THE SUN
by Anna Ferroni BSP - Italy
On December 8 we will celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Church has willed that the liturgy of Advent should be full of thoughts of Mary; to continually draw us to ponder and rejoice in the divine fruitfulness of the Virgin. Mary's virginal womb was an immaculate sanctuary where she adored her Son.
Many Saints believed that something astonishing was happening in the soul of the Virgin during the days of her pregnancy. She lived in an inner union with the Divine Child Whom she bore. In the sight of the angels, Mary truly appeared during her pregnancy as "a woman clothed with the sun", all shining with the light of her Son. She summed up in herself all the longings of the mankind awaiting the world's Saviour and God. What fervour and holiness in her love!
Mary Immaculate is also the Queen of Patriarchs, since the Child Whom she is about to bring into the world is the Son of God Who was promised through the Patriarchs. She is, too, the Queen of Prophets, since her Son is the fulfilment of all prophecy and will announce to all people the good news of the gospel.
Let us humbly ask her to place Christ anew within our hearts. Then we shall be enabled to understand the words of St. John: The Word was God, and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, full of grace and truth. And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery lest you be conceited. Just as you were once disobedient to God and now have received mercy through their disobedience, so the Jews have become disobedient – since God wished to show you mercy – that they too may receive mercy. God has IMPRISONED ALL IN DISOBEDIENCE that He might HAVE MERCY ON ALL…how deep…the wisdom of God…" (Romans 11)
Rose Prince of the Carrier Nation led a relatively ordinary life in British Columbia. Born in 1915, she was disabled, became an artist, and died in 1949 of complications from a congenital back problem. Few took notice of her life until several years after her death, when several graves had to be moved. Her body was found to be incorrupt. Suddenly questions were asked: "Who was this woman?" "What was so great about Rose?" Her relatives patiently explained, "She was nice to everyone, and she never complained."
That description would fit millions. Yet only a precious few have received such an extraordinary sign of heavenly favor: an incorrupt body. The fact is, not many knew of Rose's sanctity. Like most of the saints, she labored in relative obscurity. That gives us hope. The rich and famous have their reward. The poor and obscure have hope.
Jesus came to give us a priceless gift, the knowledge and love of God. How many people on earth labor without having the slightest idea of the Love their Creator has for them? They can know in an abstract way from the blessings all receive, and have a spirit of Thanksgiving. But when we know another person, we don't want just gifts from them. We want to know them as persons, and from that knowledge comes love. God who is called Love wants to make Himself known to us, going so far as to pay us a personal visit. The Creator mingling with His creatures? Whoever heard of such a thing! Our Father in heaven, in the person of His son Jesus, would tell us about a Love relationship that has existed from all eternity in the Blessed Trinity. He would tell us the only reason we exist is because Love wishes to be shared in time and in eternity.
"You have not chosen Me, I have chosen you." This mystery is so awesome it seems beyond belief. "We speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began." I Cor. 2
God has chosen us from all eternity to share His love. How can we respond adequately to such a priceless invitation? If we accept this divine invitation to share in God's glory that "no eye has seen, no ear has heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love Him," the first and greatest commandment is a good place to start. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your being."
Those who labor in obscurity trying to fulfill that sublime command do not make the nightly news. They do not cause controversy, unless the honor of God is at stake. Few have any idea of another's inner spiritual life, of his or her union with God even while on this earth – where heaven begins for the disciple of Jesus. Why? Doesn't everyone love a mystery? We meet and get to know other people, gradually unveiling the mystery behind that smile, that charm, that life of virtue that attracts us in the first place. We develop deep friendships with others that enrich our lives, but how well do we really know them? Do we know their heart as God knows it?
Why is so little attention paid to the God who is called LOVE? How many seriously embark on the greatest adventure life has to offer: to seek the Face of God, the Source of Love? To uncover the greatest mystery in the universe, which we hope to contemplate for all eternity? Does He hold Himself aloof so we cannot know Him? Does He put barriers in the way? No. HE WISHES TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO US. Just ask Rose. If someone in a remote hamlet of British Columbia can dazzle the Creator to such a degree that He leaves her body incorrupt as a sign of His love for her, why can't we do the same? Are we any less intelligent? Have we learned so much that we're too smart to know what the most simple understand: the "One Thing Necessary?"
"Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." (Beatitudes) "A man is really clean of heart when he has no time for the things of this world but is always searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes, and always adoring Him with a pure heart and soul."
Admonitions of St. Francis, #14, on Purity of Heart.
If we wish to see God, we must strive for purity of heart. But also purity of body. In today's sex-saturated society that's one immense challenge. Sacred Scripture is adamant on the issue. Jesus set down the moral framework in Mk. 7, 21, on what makes a person unclean. Many of the evils that come from within the human heart deal with sexual sin, from impure thoughts to fornication to adultery. Jesus knows the human heart inside out. He knows what stands in the way of a loving union, either with our spouse or with Him. The most spectacular way to downgrade the things of this world is to reject the lure of illicit sexual pleasure. As long as we are so easily distracted with sexual temptations, we will never be delivered from Evil to the degree necessary to attain true purity of heart. Legions struggle with this sin to such an extent that God cannot intimately reveal Himself to them due to a divided heart. He wants our undivided attention. To escape from the prison of sinful disobedience, the antidote is repentance and obedience – in complete dependence on the mercy of God, who wishes to have mercy on all. The pure of heart respond by saying always: "Yes, Lord. Be it done to me according to your word."
Who is this that demands such allegiance? Jesus is not reticent when it comes to leaving us adequate means to learn about Him, to uncover the mystery about the most important person who ever lived, and the most important person in our lives. Each of us must ask: "Who is Jesus?" Is He my Savior, friend, divine love? Or does He remain unknown, an obstacle to my plans and pleasures? Our future depends on the answer.
The Church year starts anew with Advent, a time of longing for the coming of Jesus into our hearts. Our heavenly Father, as a true father, wants to minister to His children. But: "Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven." Let us make ourselves little once again. With a sense of awe and wonder. As though our innocence, our purity of heart had never been lost. We can choose to be like the helpless and dependent infant Jesus born to Mary. "Our tainted nature's solitary boast" knew the mystery, for she pondered all these things in her heart. She carried Jesus within her, and presented Him outwardly. As our spiritual mother she re-presents Him to us inwardly, for she knows what it is to be One with Jesus, a perfect image of the Savior. We only need to ponder, repent, and obey.
Then we will know there is NO GREATER LOVE in all the world than the love God has for us. Loving Him, we will know how to love each other as He has loved us. We'll understand: "God chose us in Him before the world began to be holy and blameless in His sight…so immeasurably generous is God's favor (mercy) to us. God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan He was pleased to decree in Christ. A plan to be carried out in Christ, in the fullness of time, to bring all things into ONE in HIM, in the heavens and on the earth." (Eph 1)
The Octave of Christmas
This Octave goes from Christmas to January 2nd.
The BSP Statutes, Article 9, regarding it follow.
"Sundays and Solemnities of the Church are never days of fast or abstinence. Solemnities include the
Octave of Christmas, the Feasts of New Year's, Epiphany, Annunciation, the Octave of Easter, the Feasts of the Ascension, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and all other Solemnities of the Church. "
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Blessed Eurosia Fabris (1866-1932)
The family is a domestic church, said Pope John Paul II. Eurosia Fabris was born in Quinto Vicentino, a country village near Vicenza, in northern Italy, in 1866. She was beatified on November 6th, 2005, by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, the prefect of the Congregation for Sainthood Causes, who proposed her as a model of holiness in what should be the daily life of a Catholic family.
Eurosia's family was deeply Christian. At the age of 4, Eurosia moved with her family to Marola, not far from Quinto Vicentino. She lived there for the rest of her life.
Rosina, as she was called by her family, attended only the first two years of elementary school then she went to work on the farm, along with helping her mother in a small seamstress business and in family care. She was 12 when she made her first Communion and joined the Association of the Daughters of Mary in the parish church of Marola. she felt particularly attracted to prayer and to a life in God. Prayer brought her to a constant search for God's will and the desire to follow it. Her favorite devotions were to the Cross and Passion of Christ, the Eucharist, the Virgin Mary, and the souls in the Purgatory. She loved to read books. Her favorite authors were St Francis of Sales and St Alphonsus de Liguori. She also taught catechism to younger children in her parish. When she was 19, she was a beautiful girl and attracted young men.
In 1885, the young wife in a neighboring family died, leaving behind three young daughters. One died shortly afterward, but the other two, Chiara Angela and Italia, were toddlers of 20 and 2 months. Their father Carlo Barban was a simple farmer. For six months, Rosina babysat the children every day, and felt God was calling her through these two babies to embrace a lifelong mission. Eventually she decided to marry Carlo, despite being aware of the sacrifices that married life would hold for her in the future. She accepted marriage as the will of God on her. Her choice was defined by the local pastor as an "act of charity." The marriage was celebrated on the fifth of May 1886 in Marola.
In addition to the two orphaned babies, Rosa, as she was now called by everybody, took care of two of her husband Carlo Barban's family members. Her brother-in-law was an incorrigible cigar smoker inclined to gambling and bad company. Her father-in-law was deaf and very difficult to please. They also were aged and suffered from a number of chronic diseases. Rosa lived the charity in small things towards them, pleasing them in their just requests and inducing them, in word and example, to mend their ways and get closer to God.
Rosa sincerely loved her husband. The couple had nine more children. The first two of them died soon, but seven more were born, and three of them were eventually ordained as Catholic priests. One of them became a member of the Order of Friars Minor, two became Diocesan Priests. Also, Chiara Angela, daughter of the first marriage of Carlo, became a nun, and another child, who was a student in seminary, died before becoming a priest.
Rosa had great charity towards the poor, sharing her daily bread also with them; cared for the sick in the neighborhood and gave them continuous assistance. She was a hard worker and helped the family budget through her work of sewing, but also taught sewing for free to poor girls who came to her home. Eventually Barban's home became a gathering place for all the children of the village; and Rosa received the new nickname of Mamma Rosa. She behaved like a mother to everyone, taking advantage of all occasions to teach them human and Christian values.
She lived in a period of poverty. The economical effects of the war of 1915-1918 made themselves felt for a long time, and poverty was rampant in Italy. The Barban's were also poor. Carlo Barban was a good farmer, but there were old debts to pay and a large family to take care of and feed.
Sabina, a grandchild of her, died while her husband was in the army during the war 1915-1918, leaving three children, two girls and a boy ten months old. None of the relatives offered to take care of the children. Rosa, in full agreement with her husband and, above all, trusting in Divine Providence, took the children as her own in her home. So, Mamma Rosa was a mother of 14. Her home was always opened to other children as well. She raised several orphaned children. In times of strong economic and social crisis, Rosa always confided in the divine help.
In 1916 a community of the Franciscan Third Order was founded in Marola. It was assisted by the Friars Minor of the nearby convent of Santa Lucia in Vicenza. Mamma Rosa was one of the first to enroll in the newborn community as a Franciscan Tertiary, followed by her son Sante Luigi Barban, a father of 11 children.
Rosa faithfully attended all the meetings of the Franciscan Third Order and lived the Rule of St Francis, but above all tried to live the true Franciscan spirit of poverty and joy in her home, in the midst of her daily work and prayer. She was unable to pray the Breviary but prayed the Our Fathers-Hail Mary-Glory Be every day according to the 1221 Rule. This is testified by her children. She also regularly fasted and gave her food to the poor.
Her husband Carlo died in 1930 and she died on January 8, 1932, and was buried in the church of Marola. Even non-believers in the village of Marola called her a saint.
Each saint is a sign, an example for all the Church. Eurosia Fabris Barban represents a simple holiness, the ideal "housewife" we could say. She sanctified herself accepting to be wife and mother as a mission entrusted to her by God. She was really exceptional, just in her ordinary family life. In her vocation as a Christian mother, Mamma Rosa sacrificed and consumed herself day by day like a lamp burning brightly on the altar of charity.
The Cathedral of Vicenza was reserved to Rosa's family members at the beatification ceremony, and there were so many of them that there was not enough room for them inside.
We don't have many portraits of Mamma Rosa. In the official beatification painting, the artist added earrings at the last minute, said a local journalist who attended. But it was not a good idea. Nobody ever saw Mamma Rosa wearing earrings. Those people that frequented Barban house at Rosa's time noted that they were living a lifestyle of simplicity and sobriety, that Rosa also manifested in dress. Rosa never wanted to be rich. She said: "I think that if I were rich I wouldn't be as happy as I am now. Jesus too was poor, and he owned the world. Jesus and Mary were poor". She wanted to imitate her Savior. "Even Jesus was very poor, and I have no other desire than the love of the Lord". She lived an external and internal poverty founded on the trust in the Divine Providence.
Rosa's life was all spent for God and for her family. Many of us in the BSP are mothers and wives. Let's imitate Rosa's heroic spirit of poverty, charity and sacrifice in our daily lives.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
Living the simple life
By Winnie Spencer-Dealy …Honorary member of the BSP and Carmelite…
Since encountering the BSP, I have undergone some radical changes in both my thinking and in my actions. I have made prayer a priority, changed my appearance and amount of possessions, and am striving to discipline myself when it comes to eating and drinking. This is all a part of living the Rule of 1221, and were the changes St. Francis recommended to his followers all those many years ago. Because of the drastic change in society from his day compared to ours, I will put forth some suggestions as to how we may incorporate some simple changes in our lifestyle to better accommodate living this Rule.
Live a Sacramental life: This includes not only participating in the Sacraments, but also surrounding oneself with sacramental such as Holy Water, blessed objects including medals and rosaries, decorating your home with different pictures and statues of the Saints, the BVM, and/or Christ, etc. We must strive to surround ourselves with good and holy objects, pleasing to the heart, mind, and soul. Our day should be centered on prayer, and daily Mass as often as possible, Advent and Lent especially. The Sacrament of Reconciliation should be partaken of regularly--once a month is ideal. Participation in an apostolate of the works of mercy compliments a life of prayer, and balances it out. This may be visiting the imprisoned, volunteering in a food bank, bringing the Eucharist to the sick in their homes or a hospital, or giving of ones time as a catechist for the parish. There are also many other ways to participate in an apostolate, and all build up the body of Christ. Living a Sacramental life also means avoiding anything scandalous such as excessive smoking, drinking, eating, or shopping, and striving to be modest in dress, thoughts, and actions.
Eating: This is a focus area of our Rule, and we will do well to work on it. Meals should be balanced and inexpensive, keeping in mind the admonition of temperance. Economical whole foods as opposed to expensive prepackaged foods are preferred, and health of the body as well as sympathy for the poor should be our motivation for eating temperately. Choosing water or milk over soda pop is also a way of practicing temperance. Baking your own bread and fixing homemade soup is more practical and economical than buying the pre-packaged versions. Elaborate menus should be saved for special occasions and feast days. Dietary guidelines as recommended by one's doctor should be followed in loving obedience to God's respected authority.
Possessions: How we are deceived by the modern society as to the "necessary" conveniences of the day. Do we really need all those kitchen gadgets, endless changes of clothes, overabundant entertainment media, and knick-knacks stored in a huge house, along with renting a storage unit to hoard our possessions like many do? One excellent way of freeing oneself from all these "treasures" is to go through your house, a room at a time, and discard or give away anything that hasn't been used in 6-12 months. Donating to your local St. Vincent de Paul is an act of charity, or joining a local Freecycle group for your area is a practical way of ridding your house of all that junk. One should have enough clothes (and shoes) for comfort and utility, but nothing in excess, according to our Rule. The same applies to other areas of our possessions.
Saving money: There are many ways to save money, and many books on the subject, so I will only touch on a few ways. Clipping coupons, buying generic, shopping at thrift stores, cutting your own hair, and carpooling are just some of the ways one can cut costs. Utilize the local library instead of zipping out to the bookstore. Save movies and dinners out for special occasions, and eliminate impulsive shopping.
Routine: Our lives should be one of simple routine. Rising, eating, sleeping, and praying at approximately the same times each day helps to build this routine and balance our life out. Include enough time for personal prayers and devotions, the Sacraments, work, sleep, and recreation. If your life seems out of balance, take inventory and see what can be eliminated to restore balance. Often this is a matter of eliminating only one or two unnecessary activities, or it may require a major overhaul.
Living a simple life doesn't come all at once, but is a lifestyle that must be eased into. In order to make the changes long-lasting, one's inner thinking should be the first to change, and then the outer activities. Make changes slowly and one at a time, and give yourself a chance to adjust to the changes. Don't forget to pray for God's blessing and guidance, and the resolve to stick to the simple changes you've implemented. Remember St. Francis and his example of a simple life. He followed the poor Christ in all ways--can we who call ourselves his followers do any less? The different social climates of his day and our day may have changed drastically, but Christ has not. Let us strive to follow Him, and may our good father Francis bless our efforts!
Christmas is a great time to examine ourselves and the way we relate to other people. We all are called to be leaders, especially in living our Faith, and here is a list of attributes we can work on in our own style while we are surrounded with people this Christmas season.
To be a leader, start always with yourself. You must change before you can expect others to. Leadership is really mostly about our own behavior, not that of others. People who strive for the following things generally become good leaders...
Demonstrate integrity—this is the most important requirement of a leader; without it all else will fail
Be grown up—never get emotional with people, even if you know you are right—no shouting or ranting
Lead by example—always do more work than anyone else
Fairness—treat everyone equally and on the basis of merit
Listen to people, and speak much less—try to understand them and show that you do
Always take responsibility and blame for your people's, or others, mistakes when you can
Always give credit for success to others
Never, ever, promote yourself over others
Apologize even if you aren't sure you are wrong to bring peace to a situation
Back up and support those who work for you if problems come up
Ask for people's views of situations and problems, but remain neutral and objective
Always do what you say you will do, and keep your promises!
Work hard to become an expert at what you do technically and at understanding the abilities of others
Encourage people around you to grow, learn, and take on as much as they want to at a reasonable pace
Always accentuate the positive. For example say "Do it like this" rather than "Don't do it like that."
Smile, and encourage others to be happy and enjoy themselves; don't judge!
Relax, and give others time to get to know and respect each other. Take time to really meet strangers.
Plan and prioritize!
Manage your time well, and help others to do so too.
Read good books, and take advice from good people, to develop yourself.
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS:
XX. The virtuous and humble religious
Blessed the religious who has no more regard for himself when people praise him and make much of him than when they despise and revile him and say that he is ignorant. What a man is before God, that he is and no more. Woe to that religious who, after he has been put in a position of authority by others, is not anxious to leave it of his own free will. On the other hand, blessed is that religious who is elected to office against his will, but always wants to be subject to others.
National Gallery, London
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
email@example.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!
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."