REGARDING CONVERSION AND ST. FRANCIS:
St. Francis praying, by Basilio Castaneda, 1958
"...The two essential points of his way of life...were therefore: first, to follow the teaching of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that is, to live according to the words of Chrst as they are revealed in the Gospel; and secondly, to follow the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that is, to imitate, in so far as is possible, the life of Christ as it is recorded in the Gospel.
Christ gave to the world a summary of Christian perfection in his Sermon on the Mount. Francis studied this sermon and made it, in a sense, the core of his rule of life for his brothers, as expressed in the final rule of the friars of 1223. Christ praised poverty in spirit and added that to the poor in spirit belonged the kingdom of heaven. Francis made himself the poorest of the poor and commanded that his friars should appropriate nothing to themselves, neither a house, nor a place, nor anything, and that they should receive neither coins nor money, but that, on the other hand, they should go forth confidently begging alms. Christ promised that the meek would possess the earth, that they who mourned would be comforted ; that they who hungered and thirsted for justice would be satisfied; that the merciful would obtain mercy. Francis commanded his friars not to quarrel or contend in words or judge others, but to be meek, peaceable and modest, gentle and humble.
He commanded them to labor earnestly to dispel idleness and to bear illnesses patiently, serving one another and bearing one another's faults charitably and kindly. Christ said that the clean of heart would see God. Francis commanded his friars to be chaste and pure, avoiding even the shadow of anything that could soil their purity of mind and body. Christ praised peacemakers as children of God; and he said that those who suffered persecution for justice' sake possessed the kingdom of heaven. Francis helped restore peace to his native Assisi and commanded his friars to despise no one, but to love those who persecuted and calumniated them that they might be made worthy to possess the eternal kingdom.
But Francis sought not only to follow the words of Christ; he wished also to imitate the life of Christ as perfectly as he could, and he willed that his friars too should "follow the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Christ trod the pathways and roads of Palestine, preaching the love of his Father and the kingdom of heaven. Francis went about his native Italy, preaching to the people wherever he could find them, telling them of the love of Christ and of redemption. Christ withdrew into the mountains from time to time to pray and to meditate. Francis spent long hours and days in the wilderness and upon the mountains in prayer and meditation. Christ suffered and died on the cross out of love for mankind, his body torn, his hands and feet pierced with nails. Francis longed to suffer with Christ out of love for Christ, and he prayed over and over that he might be permitted to feel in his own body the intense sufferings of his Master. His prayer was answered and one day, two years before his death, the marks of Christ's wounds appeared suddenly upon his body as he was rapt in ecstasy upon Mount La Verna. Indeed, Francis came to resemble Christ so perfectly that people spoke of him as the Christ of Umbria, though of course they realized full well the essential difference between Christ and Francis.
But, with it all, there was one thing above all else in Christ that caught Francis' attention, and that was the total renunciation, the absolute poverty of Christ. The Word was with God. The Word was God. But when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, he emptied himself and taking upon himself our own human nature, he embraced poverty and took poverty to be his spouse. When he came into the world at Bethlehem, he found his spouse, Lady Poverty, there in the cave to welcome him. Throughout his life on earth, his Lady Poverty walked at his side, loved by him above all the things of earth. In his hour of disgrace...she remained with him...Poverty therefore became...the essence of his Gospel way of life…"
VISITOR'S MESSAGE: Fr. Robert Altier:
Wednesday July 4, 2001
Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time—Reading (Isaiah 57:15-19) Gospel (St. John 14:23-29)
Today, as our country takes time to celebrate Independence Day we need to ask ourselves what this really means. For most Americans, we think of "independence" as meaning "I can do whatever I want. I am not dependent on anyone." Unfortunately, in the minds of many Americans these days that includes God. We think, somehow, that we are not dependent on God and that "freedom" means we do not have to follow any rules, we can make our own rules, and we can do whatever we want. But it does not work that way. We can never be independent of God.
In fact, we hear in the first reading precisely what happens if we are. The Lord tells us: "Because of their wicked avarice I was angry, and struck them, hiding Myself in wrath, as they went their own rebellious way." I think if we looked around our society today, we could say that fits America pretty well - those who are caught in avarice, and those who go their own rebellious way. That is not freedom, nor is it independence. That is the tragedy. We need to understand what this really means. Freedom and independence do not mean "I can do whatever I want. I do not have to follow God's rules. I do not have to do what the Lord wants me to do." We think that is going to bring peace, but what it brings instead is exactly the opposite. It brings total chaos and anarchy. It brings disorder into a world and that is what we suffer with today.
But for Christians, as we come together today and we celebrate this feast, we recognize that what is ours is the true freedom of the children of God. We recognize that what is ours is independence from the devil and from his way so that we can do things God's way. It is not throwing off the yoke of God, which the Lord tells us is light and easy; but rather, it is throwing off the yoke of sin so that we are no longer slaves to sin but we have the freedom to do God's Will. That is what true freedom is. It is independence from the oppressor and God is never oppressive.
Remember that it is God Himself who gave us free will. God, in His love for us, will always treat us according to that freedom He has given to us. He will not even violate that if we choose to use our freedom against Him, if we choose to use our freedom in a way that it was not intended to be used. What God wants is for us to use the freedom that He gave us in the right way: to choose what is just, to choose what is right, to choose what is going to bring about the greatest good. He wants us to use our freedom to choose love. In this way, we can actually use our freedom to choose to be dependent on God.
If we want to think that we can be independent of God, He will allow us to walk our own way. That is what we hear in the first reading: "They went their own rebellious way." But thanks be to Him, He tells us that He saw their ways and He will heal them and lead them, He will give them full comfort. That is what we are looking for - true life, true comfort, and true peace. The Lord tells us in the Gospel that the peace He gives is a peace the world cannot give. The world can give an external kind of peace. It can give a sense of peace to the body. As we look around America for all the pleasures and comforts we say, "Well, now that I can settle back in my big over-stuffed chair, my body can have a sense of peace." But that is not the peace that the Lord gives. The peace of Jesus is in the soul, it is in the heart; it is a spiritual peace. That is the peace that we all really desire.
In order to have that peace, it means that we have to know true freedom. True freedom is doing God's Will in all things because God's Will is always what is perfect and what is best. It never violates us, even in the slightest manner; but is that which will uphold our dignity and perfect our dignity. When we are being treated with dignity and we are acting according to our dignity, then we will have peace. The only way that will happen is if our prayer life is in order, we are following the commandments of God, and we make ourselves independent of ourselves and of the devil so that we can be completely dependent on God. It is to die to self in order to live for the other. That is where true freedom and independence come.
So for us as Catholic people, as we celebrate with the country this day of our Declaration of Independence, this day where we celebrate freedom from oppression, we need to understand it in a spiritual way and be able to apply it in a deeper way, in a way that the world cannot apply it. But in the way that only a Christian person can - in the way of Jesus Christ. Not externally, but internally to know true freedom, to know true independence, and to know the true peace that only Jesus Christ can give.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.
ADMINISTRATORS MESSAGE: Medjugorje
by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
As most of you are aware we shared a wonderful pilgrimage to Medjugorje from June 19th to June 29th. We were called by Our Lady to go, and so we went with an old friend, Stephanie Percic, a Secular Franciscan, who has coordinated a 100 pilgrimages there since the apparitions began. The trip was difficult, a true pilgrimage, but very wonderful. The presence of Our Lord and His Mother in this remote Croatian village is beyond words. You can feel it in the air. You can sense it in the spirit of the people there. It is a deep spirit of peace, the Peace of Christ.
We were there for the 25th anniversary of the apparitions. Our Lady first appeared in 1981. More than 200,000 pilgrims from all over the world came for the event. Our Lady gave the world a message while we were there at the Sunday evening Mass and prayers. The message was simple but beautiful. The message was:
The message is beautiful, but does have an air of finality in some ways. How long will our Lady remain there? Only God knows, but we are confident that our Lady, being a loving mother, will remain with us for as long as she can. In the message she thanks us for persisting in living her call through these years since 1981 when she first appeared. These are times of mercy she said some time ago. Then, she said, will come the times of God's justice. We are all called to live lives worthy of Jesus, His Call, and our destiny in eternity with God. Not to worry about the future.
With great joy in my heart I thank you for all the prayers that, in these days, you offered for my intentions. Know, little children, that you will not regret it, neither you nor your children. God will reward you with great graces and you will earn eternal life. I am near you and thank all those who, through these years, have accepted my messages, have poured them into their life and decided for holiness and peace. Thank you for having responded to my call."
That said, the entire subject of conversion is worthy of some further discussion as defined at Medjugorje repeatedly by Our Lady as reported by the seers and everyone there. The need for us each to convert, and do that seriously, is real and needs to be something we seek for ourselves and our families. In the simplest terms as we heard it repeatedly said it means to put God first in our lives. First. Ahead of all of our other plans, endeavors and work. To do this we must seriously seek to live our Faith each day, and all that is necessary to grow in it and advance spiritually. The elements of the call to holiness as described to us at Medjugorje are five weapons Our Lady has said we all have to slay Satan the Goliath of our spiritual lives. They are very much a part of the Rule of 1221 and message and mission of this Association. They are: 1. Prayer with the heart: Rosary; 2. Eucharist; 3. Holy Bible; 4. Fasting; and 5. Monthly Confession. Our Lady said if we had to chose between seeing her and going to Mass we should go to Mass!
Our Rule calls us to daily prayer. The Divine Office, which connects us daily to the Holy Bible, the Rosary and contemplative prayer as optional prayers to our day. Daily Mass when we can make it. Fasting and abstinence routinely (the entire village of Medjugorje fasts on bread and water at least one day weekly), and monthly confession, if not more often. If we live the Rule of 1221 we are living the messages of Our Lady at Medjugorje.
Finally, it must be said, that even though the apparitions are not yet approved the Church has said that it is permissible for people to go their on their own. Had we not been called to go we probably would not have gone. If Our Lady calls you she also provides the means to make it happen. We certainly encourage all who are so called to go. Our Lady has said the apparitions will be approved eventually, but not in time for people to convert before what has been foretold there begins to happen. So, convert now is the ever present and communicated message of Medjugorje to all the world, but especially to us who are believers.
Praised be Jesus forever!
Bruce and Shelley
THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE of ST. FRANCIS
2006 RETREAT SCHEDULE
(This is a silent retreat except for the Marian conference room and at meals.)
(C) = Chapel
(CR) = Marian Conference Room
Friday, July 28, 2006
3:00 PM – Opening Conference for BSP members or Inquirers (CR)
4:00 PM – Regular Retreat Arrivals begin
5:00 PM - Registration and Welcome – (CR)
5:30 PM -- Dinner
6:15 PM – Introductions, instructions, and sharing – Bruce Fahey & Fr. Ken (CR)
7:00 PM - Evening Prayer & Night Prayers(C)
7:30 PM – Mass celebrated by Fr. Robert Altier (C)
8:30 PM – First Talk on the Trinity - Fr. Altier (C)
9:00 PM - Eucharistic Adoration – Fr. Altier (C)
10:00 PM - Retire
Saturday, July 29, 2006
7:00 AM – Rise
7:30 AM - Office of Readings, BSP & Morning Prayers (C)
8:30 AM – Breakfast
9: 15 AM – Mid-morning prayer – (C)
Second Talk on the Trinity by Fr. Altier (C)
Reconciliation and Spiritual Direction with Fr. Altier and Fr. Reidy
11:00 AM – Mid-day Prayer
Third talk on the Trinity by Fr. Altier (C)
Reconciliation and Spiritual Direction with Fr. Altier and Fr. Reidy
12:30 PM – Lunch
3:00 PM - Chaplet of Mercy and Mid-afternoon prayer (C)
4:00 PM – Mass and homily celebrated by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn (C)
5:30 PM – Dinner
6:30 PM – Evening Prayer & Night Prayers – (C)
7:00 PM – BSP Annual Meeting (Optional)
9:00 PM - Eucharistic Adoration with Fr. Reidy (C)
10:00 PM - Retire
Sunday, July 30, 2006 – Final day
7:00 AM – Rise
7:30 AM - Office of Readings, BSP & Morning Prayers (C)
8:30 AM – Breakfast
9:15 AM – Mid-morning prayer – (C)
Talk on the Mission and Vision of the Association by Bruce and Shelley Fahey
10:00 AM – Mass with Fr. Reidy
11:30 AM – Mid-day Prayer (C)
11:45 P.M. - Closing Conference – Stewardship Meeting (CR)
12: 00 PM – Lunch and departures
1:30 PM – Summary Closing Conference for interested BSP members or friends (CR)
The Retreat Center...in a winter picture!
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"Jesus went off to the mountain to pray."
The time has come for us to separate ourselves from the world and pray to our Father in heaven in union with Jesus. Members of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, as well as anyone seeking a prayerful experience, have a wonderful opportunity to gather together in fellowship each year at Prior Lake Franciscan Retreat Center here in Minnesota. We can say with Peter, "It's good for us to be here" on the mountain with Jesus and our fellow disciples for mutual support and encouragement. We are part of a great movement in the Church that I wish to highlight, the lay ecclesial movement.
But first, it's good to say "Hello" again after a month's absence. Thanks to those who inquired after
my health, which is fine. We have reached the point where there are many good and holy people who wish to
contribute to the BSP Newsletter. That's a good thing. Any healthy body is in a constant state of renewal. The gifts God has given to each of us are meant to be shared for the benefit of all. Yet at the same time in our relationship with God we come to realize with John the Baptist that: "I must decrease so He may increase." I'm happy to give way to the inspiration of others at any time.
One of the beautiful things about our Association is that we have one mind and heart in striving for
holiness through Divine Wisdom, a Wisdom that comes from the Word of God lived out in our daily lives as
Images of our Creator. We have access to the wonderful treasury contained in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Apostolic Tradition, and the guarantee of Truth through the Authority Jesus gave to Peter and his successors. By our fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church we will not be led astray. Rather, through the science of the Saints and all the holy ones who have gone before us, we understand the nature of discipleship in living the Gospel as Jesus meant it to be lived. We say with the priest just before receiving the precious Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion: "Keep me faithful to Your Teaching, and never let me be parted from You." Being in complete union with Jesus means we are also in harmony with each other and want each one to succeed.
The BSP is one of many lay ecclesial movements in the Church today bearing much fruit. Two years ago I referred to this fact by quoting from a talk by Franciscan Archbishop Charles Chaput titled: "Francis as the Model of Authentic Church Reform." Archbishop Chaput gives certain signs of the authenticity of any lay ecclesial movement as shown by the example of St. Francis: "A very clear part of his spirituality was his love for the Church, his obedience to her pastors, his unwillingness to be critical of the Church. Instead of tearing her down because of the sins of her leaders, Francis chose to love the Church and serve her - and because of that love and by his simple living of the Gospel without compromise, he became the means God used for the conversion and renewal of a whole age of faith."
He goes on to say that with the passage of time, "The Church is always reforming and always in need of reform - beginning with the individual believer. Charisms within the Church can thrive and be fruitful for a very long time - but unless they find some way of constantly resubmitting themselves in love and obedience to Jesus Christ and His Church, then even great traditions soon become part of the furniture. That's why God raises up new saints and new communities to blow the dust off our discipleship and set our hearts on fire. I see Francis (frequently) in the new movements and communities taking root in the Church."
The Archbishop said that Francis was not the only reformer of his day, but "he was the most faithful,
the most honest, the most humble, the most single-minded in his mission, and the most zealous in his love for Jesus Christ. I'd argue that these marks of authentic Church renewal haven't changed in 800 years. Both he and St. Clare wanted to be obedient to the Church because Jesus was obedient to His Father, and they understood that our salvation came through that submission of obedience. Any individual or religious community that redefines obedience to mean something other than a practical, willing obedience to the Gospel and to the pastors of Christ's Church always results, without exception, in disobedience to Christ Himself."
Finally, Archbishop Chaput states what the new communities in the Church should do: "Preach Jesus Christ without caveats or excuses, and want the whole world to believe in Him. Choose joy and zeal and hope rather than fighting for (mistaken) power. Be more interested in actually LIVING the Catholic faith than in reshaping it in the image of (one's) own theology. What the Church needs more than anything else is
HOLINESS - holy priests and holy people who love Jesus Christ and love His Church more than they love their own ideas. Reforming and renewing the Church begins with our own repentance and conversion, our own humility and willingness to serve. Francis showed us how. Now it's up to us to do something about it."
This sentiment is seconded by none other than Pope Benedict XVI in his recent speech before the World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities. "Today's event is truly unprecedented: for the first time the movements and new ecclesial communities have all gathered together with the Pope. It is the great ‘common witness' I wished for the year which, in the Church's journey to the Great Jubilee, is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here with us! It is He who is the soul of this marvelous event of ecclesial communion. Truly, ‘this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.' The Holy Spirit makes the Church a stream of new life that flows through the history of mankind. You are the tangible proof of this ‘outpouring' of the Spirit.
Each movement is different from the others, but they are all united in the same communion and for the same mission...new ways of missionary commitment to the radical service of the Gospel, by ceaselessly proclaiming the truths of faith, accepting the living stream of tradition as a gift, and instilling in each person an ardent desire for holiness.
Today a new stage is unfolding before you: that of ecclesial maturity. The Church expects from you the ‘mature' fruits of communion and commitment. There is an urgent need for powerful proclamation and solid, in-depth Christian formation, for mature Christian personalities, conscious of their baptismal identity, of their vocation and mission in the Church and in the world! There is great need for living Christian communities! And here are the movements and the new ecclesial communities: the response, given by the Holy Spirit, to this critical challenge at the end of the millennium. You are this providential response.
True charisms aim at the encounter with Christ in the Sacraments. The ecclesial realities to which you belong have helped you to rediscover your baptismal vocation, to appreciate the gifts of the Spirit received at Confirmation, to entrust yourselves to God's forgiveness in the sacrament of Reconciliation and to recognize the Eucharist as the source and summit of all Christian life. To safeguard a charism's authenticity it is essential that every movement submit to the discernment of the competent ecclesiastical authority.
‘Those who have charge over the Church should judge the genuineness and proper use of these gifts, through their office not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good.' I Thes 5. Jesus said: ‘I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled!' Lk 12. Let us accept the Lord's invitation, so that His fire may spread in our hearts and in those of our brothers and sisters.
Come, Holy Spirit, and make ever more fruitful the charisms you have bestowed on us. Give new strength and missionary zeal to these sons and daughters of Yours. Open their hearts; renew their Christian commitment in the world. Make them courageous messengers of the Gospel, witnesses to the risen Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of man. Strengthen their love and fidelity to the Church. Let us turn our gaze to Mary, Christ's first disciple, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of the Church, who was with the Apostles at the first Pentecost, so that she will help us to learn from her fiat docility to the voice of the Spirit. Today, Christ says to each of you: ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation.' Mk 16. He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church."
The Vicar of Christ has challenged us, my dear friends. By the grace of God, and the inspiration we offer to one another as His disciples, we must succeed in living the Gospel in a manner pleasing to God, for our salvation and that of those entrusted to our care.
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Saint Elizabeth of Portugal (1271-1336)
Princess Elizabeth (Isabel) of Aragon is best known as "the Peacemaker" because of her ability to bring about peace during her lifetime, even by dramatic battlefield interventions. She is also remembered for helping the poor and for leading a religious life while living in the world. Elizabeth was born in Saragossa, Spain, around 1271. The daughter of King Pedro III of Aragon and Queen Constanza, she was named for her great-aunt St. Elizabeth of Hungary, who had been canonized seven years previously.
She was a delightful, devout and obedient child and was educated very piously. Thus, at twelve years of age she consented to become the wife of Dionysius (Denis), King of Portugal, who was 20 years old. King Denis was a poet, and known as Re Troubadour. His behavior, however, was often immoral, and the court to which his young wife was brought consequently most corrupt. Denis anyway, though not a good man, was kind to Elizabeth and did not put obstacles to her commitment to prayer and good works. They had two children. Elizabeth's daughter, Constanza, was born after the couple had been married for eight years, and Alfonso, the crown prince, a year later.
Meantime, Denis fathered an additional seven children — one chronicler says nine — by a number of other women. Elizabeth endured the infidelity of her husband With heroic patience. She never sought the pity of those around her. There is no record of her showing anger or condemning her husband's behavior. She even provided for the education of his illegitimate children.
Elizabeth's Christian faith filled every aspect of her existence. She surrounded herself with a number of chaplains, and every day she recited, and sang, the Liturgy of the Hours with them. A number of buildings were erected in Portugal under her direct supervision: a convent to house the Poor Clare nuns, a house for herself next to the convent, a hospice for the aged poor, a hospital, an orphanage, and churches. She drafted the sketches for those buildings herself, and managed the day-to-day progress of the projects. Twentieth-century scholars have identified the buildings that date back to Elizabeth by their common architectural features, and have concluded that she developed her own style, named "Isabel style".
But a far heavier cross awaited Elizabeth. Her son Alfonso, who was to succeed his father, grew up rebellious, in response to his father's treating his illegitimate sons favorably. Eventually Alfonso led a revolt against his own father, being allied with certain noblemen of the Spanish kingdom of Castile, who were only too willing to help him overthrow his father. Elizabeth worked to mediate peace between the two men closest to her heart, husband and son, each of whom led an army, but Denis exiled her to the fortified city' of Alenquer, forbidding her to leave the city walls. All her goods were confiscated and she was banished from court. Although innocent, Elizabeth obediently accepted the confinement, refused to join with insurrectionists and urged loyalty to the king.
She stayed in exile until news came that the hostilities between her husband and son had heated up anew. Alfonso had secured additional military help from Castile, and his father had responded by greatly reinforcing his own army. The whole country as well as her family was in peril, so Elizabeth did abandon then her place of exile and rode horseback for days to mediate peace between the two men bent on destruction. Exhausted, heartbroken, Elizabeth rode out to face the warring parties, imploring, negotiating. Her biographers have named her the "Angel of Peace."
The war ended only When King Denis was on his deathbed. Then he converted to God, acknowledging his wrongs and misdeeds. Elizabeth was finally vindicated of the false charges brought against her. Then Denis called Alfonso to his side, and entrusted Elizabeth to his care: "Look after your mother and my lady, the queen, for she remains alone. Stand by her, as is your duty.... Think that having given you life, and for the many tears you have cost her, she is twice your mother."
Denis died in February, 1325, at the age of 63. Not forgetting his illegitimate children. Elizabeth herself led them to their dying father for his last blessing. Denis also named Elizabeth executor of his last will and testament, in which he made provision for the payment of all his debts, "having in mind God's Judgment," and for the disposition of castles, towns, and endowments to churches. Upon Denis' death, Elizabeth said, "I have always beseeched our Lord to kindly spare me the bitterness of surviving the king, my lord. I have wished him a long life, for the good and well-being of the people."
She removed her court dress and thereafter refused to wear anything but the habit of the Franciscan Tertiary Order, to whom she belonged. She took up residence next to the convent of the Poor Clares, which she had founded in Coimbra. She founded a hospital near the convent, and named it after St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Every day, Elizabeth worked in caring for the sick, often choosing for herself the most distasteful tasks.
Elizabeth died on July 4th, 1336. She was 65 years old. Pope Urban VIII canonized her on May 25th, 1625. Her body remains incorrupt, reposing in the Church of St. Clare at Coimbra, The coffin has been opened several times through the centuries as recently as 1912. The teams of examiners, invariably composed of doctors and Church officials, consistently reported that St. Elizabeth remains intact, as beautiful and serene as if she merely slept.
We have in Elizabeth a wonderful example of how we should pass through this life, being in the world but not of it. She was a queen, wife and mother; her interventions, prayers, sacrifices, charity acts and works of mercy were heroic. Let us pray this Angel of Peace to bring peace to our world.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
by Kelly Neff
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of Justification by Grace: The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ"...The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man... Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God...Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent...Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life...."
At our local library I came across a very Franciscan little book in the middle of the week, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning, then I discovered it is considered a spiritual classic and I felt very dim indeed. But Mr. Manning is considered something of a scandal in some quarters because he was a priest and left the priesthood and was married. Then he became an alcoholic (and sobered up). If anyone knows about being a sinner and experiencing God's grace, I'd say it would be this man. I say it is a Franciscan book because it is full of joyful admonitions to be like Jesus. On every page I am exhorted through scripture and wonderful stories to give up being self-righteous or cling to my sinfulness as a badge ('I am too horrible, God couldn't possibly love me') and accept the love that God holds out, accept the friendship of Jesus, the near intimate relationship to God in every moment. I laughed or cried on every page, sometimes both. It was a complete joy, and its basic message was 'yes my sins are great, but Grace is greater.'
Understanding this, and accepting it, is why I think that Francis and Clare could call themselves unworthy servants and sinners and live with such joy in the midst of harsh penances and pain and suffering inflicted by life: not because they were masochists, but because God is Love, and loves every one of us no matter what we have done, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not. They did not hide their frail human natures from us, nor should we be sanctimonious and cover up our sinful past or present. But we should say rather, 'these are my faults, and here is the love of our God that has forgiven me as no man would do, nor probably as I would myself.'
Sin is a pretty strong word and not very popular these days. Faults, okay, foibles, yes, quirks, definitely (for don't they make us 'interesting'?) But sin? That's a big nasty 'holy foot of God coming down to crush us' word. Do I sin? I haven't murdered anybody! I don't steal! Sin? Yes. I am angry, impatient, I don't forgive and forget, maybe I'm lazy, I don't recognize everything in life as a gift of God, I think I did all this myself... hubris. We forget 'I of my own self can do nothing.'
This morning the Archbishop said in his homily, 'the root of sin is forgetting who we are, whose we are. We belong to God, and when we forget that we do things that are sinful.' And aren't we always forgetting, if not by gross deed, then in thought or word?
Brennan Manning said in the Ragamuffin Gospel, 'only a hypocrite says he is not a sinner, or that he once was and is not now.' And this is why the saints are forever denying their sanctity - it is no false modesty which bids them do it, but honesty. 'I am far from perfect. But God is good and gracious and loving...' They are saints because they lived in the space of seeking that nearness to God which we forget, they are saints because they remembered whose they were.
May God bless and keep you.
In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary.
Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your
heart. And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect
not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go
astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she
is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your
hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear;
if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you
favor, you shall reach the goal.
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS:
XXVII. The talkative religious
Blessed that religious who never says anything just for what he can get out of it. He should never be "hasty in his words" (Prov. 29:20) or open his heart to everyone, but he should think hard before he speaks. Woe to that religious who does not keep the favours God has given him to himself; people should see them only through his good works, but he wants to tell everybody about them, hoping he will get something out of it. In this way he has received his reward, and it does not do his listeners any good.
The Virgin and Child under an Apple Tree
painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder around 1520. Now in Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
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!
"Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them."