ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI
St. Francis, Italian stamp, 1982
Born at Assisi, Italy, in 1182 and Christened John (Giovanni) di Bernadone, St. Francis is one of the most famous and beloved Saints of the Church. The son of a wealthy merchant, he spent his early years as a carefree youth and lived in extravagance. After his conversion, while praying in the Church of San Damiano, near Assisi, our Lord, Jesus Christ, spoke to him from the crucifix, telling him: "Francis, repair my house for you see it is falling into ruin." Believing at first that God wanted him to repair the dilapidated church of San Damiano, Francis set to work begging alms to purchase building materials. His father, humiliated by his son, denounced him.
At that point, Francis began to preach, and his holiness, simplicity, love of nature and joyful embrace of "Lady Poverty" attracted many followers. This was the beginning of the Franciscan Order. Francis sent his brothers to preach in far-off places. Their preaching counteracted the growing spirit of riches infecting Europe, doctrinal ignorance and heretical evil of those days. In this way he rebuilt the Church of his time.
In 1207 Francis founded the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans). With St. Clare he co-founded the Poor Clares, who follow the Franciscan spirituality. He gave the laity a Rule of life in 1221. In September of 1224, while praying on Mount Alverna, St. Francis received the stigmata, the five wounds of Christ. He died in 1226 and was canonized in 1228. St. Francis love for poverty, for the cross, and for all creation, brought new vitality and holiness to the whole Church. St. Francis said:
"For those blessed and all-holy eyes [of God] have not seen among sinners anyone more vile or insufficient than I am. And so in order to do that wonderful work which He intends to do, He did not find on earth a viler creature, and therefore He chose me, for God had chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the base things of the world and the despised to bring to naught the noble and great and strong, so that all excellence in virtue may be from God and not from the creature, in order that no creature should glory before Him, but 'let him who takes pride, take pride in the Lord,' that honor and glory may be only God's forever."
Yesterday, Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap. had a few words to say about St. Francis . . . During his homily, he reflected on the life of St. Francis of Assisi... and on how Francis led a spiritual revolution in the Church. The archbishop said the historical period in which Francis lived, with its injustices and its disparity between rich and poor, was very similar to the world of today. Francis, he said, led the Church toward conversion, reconciliation and a more authentic witness of the Gospel through his personal example. "If you and I want to be what God calls us to be in the years that lie ahead, we need to be like St. Francis," he said. Catholics today must work to renew society through repentance, conversion, humility and willingness to serve.
"When people claim they're Catholic but do nothing in the public square to advance the Christian understanding of each human person's dignity, they're deceiving themselves and other people -- but they're not fooling God," the archbishop said, naming areas of concern to Catholics, such as embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, assisted suicide, marriage, immigration, poverty and the disabled. "We need to drill it into our heads that defending the sanctity of the human person and serving the common good can't be separated," he said. Stuffing our Catholic faith in a closet when we enter the public square or join a public debate isn't good manners, and it isn't political courtesy. It's cowardice. And we'll be judged for that cowardice by the God who created us." "The world needs committed Catholic laypeople like yourselves to lead with humility, courage and love.
"But what it [the world] needs more than anything else is holiness, holy men and women who love Jesus Christ and God's Word more than they love their own careers and agendas," He challenged.
Compliments of Deacon John BSP on the feast of St. Francis—October 4
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
II. The Evil of Self-will
God told Adam: "From every tree of the garden you may eat; but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you must not eat" (Gen. 2: 16-17).
Adam, then, could eat his fill of all of the trees in the garden, and as long as he did not act against obedience, he did not sin.
A man eats of the tree that brings knowledge of good, when he claims that his good will comes from himself alone and prides himself on the good that God says and does in him.
And so, at the devil's prompting and by transgressing God's command, the fruit becomes for him the fruit that brings knowledge of evil, and it is only right that he should pay the penalty.
VISITOR'S MESSAGE: Fr. Robert Altier:
Reading: (Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5)
Gospel: (St. Luke 18:35-43)
We see in today's Gospel reading a situation that is all too familiar. We hear about this man who is blind sitting on the side of the road and calling out to Jesus to have pity on him, and everyone around him is telling him to be quiet, just to stay to himself and quit asking for anything. But he called out all the more. And when Jesus responded, He asked the man what He could do for him. The man said, Lord, that I may see, and Jesus gave him his sight. Now the point that is all too familiar is that when somebody really wants to start to live the faith there will be many people who are going to be saying, "Just be silent. Just be like everyone else. Just be a typical Catholic," which is a pretty tragic thing in our society because the typical Catholic is a Catholic for approximately one hour a week, and that is not very much. And so if somebody really begins to live their faith, there will be many, many people surrounding them telling them to be silent, telling them to knock it off, telling them just to stop what they are doing and go back to the way they used to be.
That is not an option. When we recognize Who Jesus is, we have to call out to Him and we have to ask Him, Lord, that I may see! What is it that we are trying to see? We are not physically blind. What we are trying to see is the truth of Who He is, the truth of His Church, and the truth of who we are. The truth of who we are is not a very pleasant thing for us to see because, of course, we like to run around thinking how wonderful we are. But the reality is that when God gives us the insight to see, we get to see our sinfulness, we get to see that we are not the end-all and be-all, that we are not the one around whom the world revolves. We see our dependence on God and we also get to see the fact that we were created to serve God and to glorify Him in the way we act, in the way we live.
So this is what we have to ask for. First of all, it takes an immense grace to ask because it means you have to want to see. If we are honest with ourselves, many of us really do not want to see. Many of us want to grope around blindly like everybody else because we fit in with the crowd. But when Our Lord sees the lukewarmness, shall we say, of the Bishop of Ephesus in the first reading, He condemns him and tells him if he does not get back to his first love that He is going to remove his lampstand. And so we need to be able to really want it and beg the Lord to be able to see so that we can live the faith in its fullness.
That means there are going to be people who are not going to like us very well. But then what happens is just like in the Gospel: When the man received his sight after being rebuked by all the people, suddenly they are praising God because of what had happened. The same will happen for us. It is not immediate. People, of course, will reject us and think we are weird and everything else. But when we get to heaven, there will be great rejoicing. And long before we get to heaven, Our Lord tells us that there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine people who have no need to repent. I think we can say the same: There is going to be more rejoicing over one person who truly wants to see the fullness of the truth and live it than over ninety-nine people who just want to be mediocre Catholics, who really do not want the truth, who want to be able to keep their toe in the water but not necessarily immerse themselves in the fullness of Christ.
We have to choose Jesus. We are sitting along the side of the road, most of us, and the Lord is passing by. We have a choice. We can remain silent and just stay the way we are, or we can call out to Him. And it is not just making a feeble effort to call out and say, "Well, He didn't hear my little whisper," but rather it is to call out at the top of our spiritual lungs and beg for mercy, to ask Him to see and ask Him for the grace to be healed so that we will be able to follow Him, not follow Him from a distance, but to walk with Him, to follow the path that He followed and to be united with Him in all things. That is what He is offering to those who truly want it. But that is the challenge for us: We have to really want it and we have to call out to Him, Son of David, have pity on me!
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.
by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
From the lessons of Jim Cole BSP - Postulant:
This lesson teaches that the changes in our interior life that earlier parts of the Rule describe depend on God's grace, which we are to obtain through the sacraments He established. We are not to focus on the interior life to the exclusion of what the Lord wants us to do in our exterior life. The Last Judgment as the Lord described it will be all about how we treated those in need, not on how much we fasted or how many prayers we said. By following His will in all things, we reach the balance in our interior and exterior lives that He desires. The interior life powers the exterior life, and as we integrate the works of charity into our daily lives, our interior lives become more and more a turning outward toward others and less and less a preoccupation with ourselves. Ultimately, it is all a complete self-giving, emulating the complete self-giving of the Lord Himself.
From Deacon John BSP—Postulant:
"O God, You increased the membership of the Church through the merits of blessed Francis. Grant that we may follow his example and spurn the things of earth to find our continual happiness in Your Gifts from Heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen."
... in this world I cannot see the most high Son of God with my own eyes except for His most holy Body and Blood. Everyday He humbles Himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne into the Virgin's womb . . . when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hand of the priest at the altar.
[St. Francis of Assisi]
With Blessings from Deacon John
On Chapters and the Spirit of our Community: "Take pride in the Lord…" as St. Francis said!
We are a community in the Church. In the National Catholic Registry and with the blessing of several bishops including Archbishop Harry J. Flynn here in the Twin Cities where the BSP of St. Francis has always been headquartered. Because we are an Association in the Church, we in administration in this Association, striving to be humble servants of the Lord and what He asked of us but taking pride in the Lord, reach out to the world to promote the Rule of 1221, the Rule of the BSP, for the good of souls and glory of God. But, it doesn't end there, and everyone who reads this needs to reflect on this.
Time and time again our members and friends tell us they love this community and want to be part of it. We can see that in each of the lives of our members and friends who write us or do lessons. So many people worldwide meditate on the messages of our web page and statutes, or enter formation and seek a deeper commitment to the lifestyle, but always see their call in what St. Francis gave us in the Rule of 1221. It is beautiful to see from our view. We see the fire of the Holy Spirit to whom this family belongs and through whom it was formed. A fire and light that calls us to penance as the basis for our good actions and work in the world, and to prepare us for heaven. It is not possible to say here all that is shared with us in the Association by our wonderful and holy members on how this life of penance has blessed and changed the direction of their lives. Could we do that we would need many more pages than this newsletter offers. However, one thing is very apparent to us as administrators.
This lifestyle will yield great fruit in your life and in your relationship with Jesus if you give it a real chance! If you pray and practice the conversion it calls us each to. We need to use the call to penance to drive us to a deeper commitment to service to others and to responsible sharing with everyone we meet on the ‘things of God". We must always speak favorably and sweetly of God. As Archbishop Chaput says "what it [the world] needs more than anything else is holiness, holy men and women…". We need to be these holy people of God. We don't need big agendas or glorious objectives. We need to live, speak, and work for Jesus where we live. This is what it means to live the Rule of 1221, the rule of the BSP. Praised be Jesus forever!
It is appropriate that we remind everyone of the fast of St. Martin which begins November 12th. As the Rule states in article 9: "They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout the fast of St. Martin from after said day (November 11) until Christmas…" If not from food find something else to fast from, and pray. Prepare the way of the Lord for his Birthday...
HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!
Let us humbly thank God for all He has given us.
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
From the Gospel reading, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Janet Klasson BSP
"One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' "
Here in Canada, since our harvest comes earlier, we celebrate Thanksgiving in October. This year in his Thanksgiving homily, our priest said something that really gave me pause. Essentially he said that gratitude to God is more important than any other pious act - including prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Many of us have come to the BSP in response to a felt call to increased prayer and fasting. Sometimes it is easy to feel that if we live the Rule to the best of our ability, we have done what we should. But if our practice does not flow from a grateful heart, even if we manage to live the Rule perfectly, our sacrificial gifts will carry the stench of ingratitude. How can God be pleased?
In this gospel reading, our Lord Jesus teaches us that to love God above all is the first and greatest commandment. What could be more fitting than to express that love through the practice of constant gratitude?
Much is said about gratitude these days. Popular western culture has made it trendy. But in making it trendy, God is very often left out of the formula. In popular culture, gratitude is a feeling not directed up, but in. We are told we can feel good about ourselves when we are not taking things for granted. A worthy-sounding sentiment, but anything directed inward is a temptation to idolatry.
When we direct our gratitude upwards, when we give thanks to the Source of all good, the heavens open up. The Creator reveals a facet of himself in each created thing. In contemplating God's infinite generosity, our love for him cannot help but grow. Gratitude flows as we see his holy face in everything good and our gratitude gives him glory.
When we already spend one to two hours per day in prayer, it is difficult to imagine we might be leaving anything out. But Jesus tells us to pray always, not just one or two hours a day. If we make constant gratitude a practice, this will fulfill most beautifully what Jesus has asked us to do.
I happen to be someone who is by nature unobservant. But in attempting to live a life of constant gratitude to God, I have begun to make an effort to not only notice my surroundings, but give thanks at all times for even the smallest things. In fact it is the smallest things that often evoke the strongest feelings of gratitude to my loving Father to whom no detail is too small to be left out. I am beginning to see him as a doting Father, and my love for him expands with each new expression of thanks.
Practically speaking it is easy to get caught up in our daily duties, our studies, or things that require our undivided attention. Sometimes at the end of my work day, I look back and see that there were very few times I gave thought to God, much less thanked him for his blessings. For me, it helps if I have a visual image of Jesus near to me. Perhaps the chair next to me is empty. As I work I can imagine him in it and thank him for each little thing, even asking him to correct the mistakes I make, especially when it comes to my dealings with others. I can offer up my daily inconveniences and challenges linking them to the cross, the image of which should fill me at all times with heartfelt gratitude. I can picture him walking with me, handing me the tools I need to do a good job, and most especially I can get in the habit of seeing him in the faces of those He sends me.
It is especially in difficult times that our gratitude should be given to the Father. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says "In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus." God's love never fails. What the evil one means for our destruction, God can use for great blessings and glory.
St. Paul tells us that in our sufferings, we make up for what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. What an unimaginable honor! He allows us to participate in his total love for souls by allowing us to take up our crosses for their sake. Seen in this light, it is our sufferings for which we should be most grateful.
It may at first take a conscious effort, but through practice we can integrate gratitude into every moment of our lives. In this way the sacrifices we make and the prayers we offer will be carried upward on the fragrant incense emanating from our thankful hearts. God will indeed be pleased.
To my brothers and sisters: may you have a holy and blessed Thanksgiving holiday. And to everyone reading this, may gratitude become for us a daily practice of holiness for the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Janet Klasson BSP
SPECIAL ARTICLE: A Meditation on the Life of Penance
from Robin Gorton BSP
We live in an age in which the way to the personal love of Jesus Christ has been lost by so many souls.
Jesus says, "If you love Me, keep My commandments." If we love Jesus Christ, we ought fulfill His commands. And He Himself gives us an example of how we can do this, for He says, "Love one another, as I have loved you." "As", that is, "in the same manner".
Was Christ born in luxury? Did He grown up amongst pleasures? Was he accustomed to having His every satisfaction provided for by Mary and Joseph? Did He have a successful career? Was He popular and accepted by the many? Was His work profitable and enriching? Was His retirement benefit enjoyable and rewarding?
In the sight of this world: NO, to all of these questions. No, because "He made Himself poor in this world, that we might become rich in grace", says St. Paul. He made Himself poor, or in other words, He undertook a life of penance and mortification for the sake of our salvation, since it was in this that He merited for us, by the consummation of His life and the most bitter anguish of the Cross, all the graces of the Redemption.
Yes, Christ Jesus manifested His extremely, great and infinite love, for us poor wretches, in that He suffered and sacrificed all for love of us.
This is the way of love that the world, in growing cold, has forgotten, and lost. This is the way of personal love which so many lost souls have wandered from. The is that true form of Christianity which so many Catholics too have forgotten. But this is the perennial Gospel of the Catholic Church: Do penance and believe!
St. Peter's very first sermon on Pentecost Day had this themes: Do penance and believe! "Do penance!" because "all of us have sinned and have been deprived of the glory of God", which is that Blessed Vision of Love Himself. "No one has seen God", who "is Love"; hence none of us, by our birth into this world, and by our own right or powers can know what love truly is.
This innate ignorance is why the tendency of our fallen nature is to intemperance, indulgence, impurity, and concupiscence. This ignorance, in that it is fundamentally an ignorance of what Love is, is hence fundamentally an ignorance that leads away from what Love is.
Hence the necessity of Penance on the way to the perfection of Charity.
We ought to do penance for our sins and those of the whole world: this is an act of justice, since God has been truly and deeply offended, and we, as Catholics, called to a life of supernatural justice, ought to pay our debts back to God and strive that the debts of others also be rendered to Him. Just sons would do not less.
But a more radical and fundamental necessity is that we undertake penance, a penitential life, a life of mortification and self-sacrifice, out of charity for Our Lord Jesus Christ. Did Our Divine Master not say, "If you do not take up your cross and follow Me you cannot be My disciple?" And again, "Such as I love, I rebuke and chastise. Be zealous therefore, and do penance" (Apoc. 3:2-3). The Apostle adds, "Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, as an oblation and a sacrifice to God . . ." (Eph. 3:17-19)
The mortification of our senses, our faculties, our body and soul, of our inordinate desires, all this is a work of justice and charity for Our Lord and Redeemer. If we love Christ, we will want to walk with Him. And to walk with Him is to be His disciple. But, as He teaches, we cannot be His disciple, unless we take up our cross and only then follow Him.
The life of Penance then is the beginning of the life of authentic love of Christ Jesus. We see this in the life of every Saint. Just think of St. Francis of Assisi; the beginning of his conversion was a life of hard, manual, labour; a life of charity for lepers, despite their wounds which so revolted him; a life of fasting and prayer and vigils, of hairshirts, and thorns, and cold snow and ice; of abstinence from meat, and of long foodless Lents. Such was St. Francis's love of Christ, manifest and worked out in penance, that he merited to hear a voice from Heaven, assuring him that all his sins had been blotted out.
Penance is the authentic road to the love of Jesus Christ. If there is a dearth of this Love today, is it not because there is a dearth of penance today? And since it is charity, more than all other virtues, which binds us to Christ and is the hallmark of fidelity, is it no wonder that without penance the members of the Church are corrupted by every infidelity?
We live in an age full of abominations, outrageous crimes, incredible scandals, and the most wicked perversions. The way to rid the Church of all of these is the Gospel of Penance: the proclamation of the necessity and importance of the way of mortification and self-sacrifice. But the proclamation is not enough; indeed it is the duty of the Hierarchy to tell the world of this and boldly; but it is the duty of all of us, whether clergy, religious, or laity, to practice it.
There is no greater work more needful, more important than this personal commitment to a life of penance. And no time has the Church had more need of this amongst its members than the present hour.
Do penance with the blessing of God! (St. Francis of Assisi)
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters." (Luke 11, 23)
This is a continuation of last month's theme on Pope Benedict's decisive statement against violent conversions, that to act against reason is contrary to God's nature. The unreasonable reaction to this truthful statement is very instructive. How does a follower of Jesus combat error in attempting to bring the truth of salvation to unbelievers? Three witnesses testify: Paul the Apostle, Justin Martyr, and Francis of Assisi.
St. Paul the Apostle in his first chapter to the Romans clearly states that there is no excuse for the natural man not to know God, and good from evil: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, having been understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man… Therefore God gave them over to the sinful desires of their hearts… Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not be done. They have been filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice… Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them."
Justin Martyr, the first Christian apologist (A.D. 151), talks true Christians who never knew Jesus: "We have been taught that Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared that He is the Word (Logos) of whom every race of men were partakers (John 1,9). Those, therefore, who lived according to reason (Greek, logos) were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them… Those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason (logos) were wicked men, and enemies of Christ, and murderers of those who did live according to reason (logos), whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason (logos) are Christians. Such as these can be confident and unafraid." First Apology, 46.
The September Newsletter led off with a most interesting story from the Little Flowers of St. Francis: "St. Francis in Arabia: a beautiful story of his sanctity…" And it is. But it is also a lesson on why he went to convert the leader of the Saracens, one of many names given to followers of Islam over the ages: "Spurred on by zeal for the faith of Christ and incited by a desire for martyrdom…" This zeal spurred St. Francis to convert the Sultan to Christianity TO SAVE HIS SOUL. Pacifists today will say that Francis went to stop the war, the Crusades. It's true that Francis upbraided the Crusaders at Dalmatia - not because they were on the wrong mission - but because of their sinful excesses. As a most faithful and obedient son of the Church, there is no way St. Francis would dissent from the pope's clarion call to free the Holy Land from Muslim aggression by force of arms. The main concern of St. Francis was the salvation of souls, both of the Crusaders and the Saracens. And in this mission he partially succeeded, especially with the Sultan. The following conversation is very enlightening.
The Sultan submitted this problem to Francis. ‘Your Lord taught in his gospels that evil must not be repaid with evil, that you should not refuse your cloak to anyone who wants to take your tunic. (Mt. 5, 40) In that case, Christians should not invade our land?'" Notice how clever the question, and the use of "our land." The Holy Land did not belong to Muslims until they violently attacked Christians living there and drove them out, then refused to let them visit the place Jesus sanctified by His Presence.
"Blessed Francis answered, ‘It seems that you have not read the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ completely. In another place we read: ‘If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.' (Mt. 5, 29) Here He wanted to teach us that every man, however dear and close to us, must be repulsed, pulled out and expelled if he seeks to turn us aside from the faith and love of our God. That is why it is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship. But if you were to recognize, confess and adore the Creator and Redeemer, Christians would love you as themselves…" (13th Century Testimonies #13, Omnibus)
St. Francis had no difficulty recognizing that Islam, and the Sultan was on the wrong side, an enemy of Jesus. In that he follows the Word of God, the principles laid down by Paul the Apostle, the writings of the Church Fathers, and the constant teaching of the Church. That's why Pope Benedict felt free to continue that teaching by pointing out that spreading the faith through violence was unreasonable, and: "Not to act according to reason is contrary to God's nature." It is also CONTRARY TO OUR OWN NATURE, which God has given us, for we are made IN HIS IMAGE AND LIKENESS.
I cringe when I hear the statement that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. When a Muslim suicide bomber deliberately kills and maims the innocent in the name of Allah, has he done a good deed, and will he really be rewarded with 72 virgins in a rather promiscuous paradise? I don't think so. Fr. Valerius, the first good shepherd of the BSP, had no problem declaring that Mohammed was a false prophet, and Islam a false religion. It's also a very love-less religion. How then can we pay it homage? How can we fail to tell the truth and expect the enemies of Jesus to gain their salvation? Are we doing them a favor by pretending that the enemies of Christ are really His friends? Judas WAS His friend, and fulfilled the plan of God, but that did not lead to his salvation.
St. Francis, man of peace, had no problem declaring to Islam: "It is just that Christians invade the land you inhabit, for you blaspheme the name of Christ and alienate everyone you can from His worship." Then he gives the perfect remedy: "But if you were to recognize, confess and adore the Creator and Redeemer, Christians would love you as themselves…" And how are they to know the difference if no one has the courage of St. Francis TO TELL THEM THE TRUTH! Thanks be to God, Pope Benedict has begun the process. Will reasonable people see the difference between a false prophet's description of an irrational and love-less god, and the One, True Loving Creator and Redeemer they can recognize, confess and adore along with us? We pray that devout Muslims come to know the love of their Savior Jesus; be for Him instead of against Him; gather with Him instead of scatter. And above all, that they come to know there is NO GREATER LOVE than the love of God, which truth they will never find in the Koran.
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)
Charles was born in 1538, in the castle of Arona, fourteen miles from Milan, Italy. He was the second of two sons in a very rich family of six children. According to customs of those times, the first son, Frederick, was heir to all the family wealth. Charles, being the second, was from childhood destined to undertake an ecclesiastical career. At the age of 12 Charles received the tonsure, the mark of a consecrated life, and was appointed Abbot of Arona. At the age of 14 he left for Paris where he graduated in civil and canon law in 1559. By the time he took his doctor's degree at twenty-two his parents were dead and his elder brother, Frederick, was head of the family.
On December 25, 1559, his maternal uncle, Giovanni Angelo de Medici, became Pope under the name of Pius IV, and called Charles to Rome to the papal court. Charles went to Rome, and within a very short time he was the recipient of a lot of money, honors, offices, and powers. The papal court at this time was all corrupted and involved in political affairs. Abbeys, monasteries, convents and other religious houses had amassed great wealth over the years. This wealth was one of the causes that lead to the Reformation and Protestantism.
Charles was created a Cardinal and Papal Secretary on January 31, 1560, though he was a sub deacon and only 21 years of age! Eight days later he was made Administrator for the Archdiocese of Milan (since not yet being a priest, he could not yet be archbishop of that See). This indeed was nepotism on the part of the pope Pius IV.
But God had different plans and wanted to convert Charles. In November 1562, his elder and only brother Frederick died in the bloom of life and most flourishing fortune by a sudden fever, a few days after his marriage with a pretty girl. Charles was overwhelmed with consternation and grief. Shocked, facing his brother's corpse, he meditated on life and death, and was penetrated more seriously than ever with a sense of the instability of human things.
All his friends, and the pope himself, thought Frederick's death to be a wonderful opportunity for Charles, as he was now the first son and so he was the heir of all his family's goods. So they suggested him to resign his ecclesiastical dignities, and marry, and be happy for the rest of his life!
But Charles had been converted and now had turned his heart to God completely. He said no. He joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and took the poverty of St. Francis of Assisi as the model for his life. He also chose to remain engaged in Holy Orders, and was ordained priest and consecrated bishop before the end of that year. His motto was "Humility".
He was indeed an exemplary Tertiary, a true son of St. Francis. Named to the archdiocese of Milan, he gave up the luxurious way of living of both his home estates and Rome, gave most of his income to charity, forbade himself all luxury and imposed severe penances upon himself. He sacrificed wealth, honors, esteem and influence to become poor.
He avoided all personal finery, and his clothes were so shabby that even beggars thought they were unfit to be worn. He was ingeniously humble, and was careful to hide his merits, his penances, and his private devotions to that no praise might come to him. He did not hesitate to wash dishes, to enter the dirtiest hovels of the poor, and to instruct a poor man by sitting down with him along the roadside. His days were filled with duties and cares. He lived as simply as it was possible to do. One cold night when someone wanted to have his bed warmed, he said, "The best way not to find a bed warm is to go to a bed colder than your bed is."
When he arrived at Milan, Charles found the moral condition to be terrible, abuses were many. Among the laity there was much ignorance concerning the Faith, superstition was quite common and the Sacraments were neglected. There were debauched, slothful priests and the monasteries were full of disorder. To correct this sad condition of his diocese and to introduce the reforms of the Council of Trent, Charles knew that his own home must first set the example. He himself was a model for all the priests of his diocese; he went to confession every morning before he said Mass and twice a year he made a general confession. He also did much penance for his flock, especially in regard to food.
The austerities which he practiced amidst the incredible fatigues of his apostolic life seem almost excessive. His fasts were at first moderate, that he might inure his body by degrees to greater severities; but for a long time he continued every week to increase them out of an earnest desire of practicing every means of advancing in the path of Christian perfection, until for several years before he died he ate nothing except bread and water, and that only once a day. Yet despite his fasts, St. Charles' strength never failed him for his many functions of state.
Charles constantly wore a rough hair shirt; took very little rest; and often passed the whole night in prayer. When others advised him to allow more to the necessity of nature, he used to say that his uncle, John James of Medicis, a famous captain, and many other generals, only slept a short time in a chair in the night; "and ought not a bishop who is engaged in a warfare against hell," said he, "do as much?" Eventually, at the earnest request of the bishops of his province, he consented to alter this custom. From that time he lay on a bed of straw, having for his pillow a sack filled with straw, without any other covering than a poor counterpane stuffed with straw, and two coarse sheets laid on his straw bed.
During a great plague in 1576, while the authorities of church and state fled to the safety of the hills, he stayed in the city spending the church's resources completely to feed the poor. Not only did Charles remain in Milan where he ministered to the sick and the dying, helping those in need, but he called upon and then shamed the local nobles and the mayor to return to Milan and help. He melted down and sold all his precious metals and gave away all his furniture, even his straw bed, to care for the stricken, and turned his palace into a hospital.
Charles used to make a spiritual retreat twice every year. His favourite retreat home was Mount Varallo, a famous place of devotion to the sufferings of Christ, the mysteries of which are curiously carved in thirty-eight chapels on a hill, besides the great church, which is served by Franciscans. There St. Charles went in late October of 1584 to make his annual retreat and confession. He became ill with fever, chills and sweating, but still finished the rigorous retreat. His sickness became much worse after All Saints Day when he returned to Milan. When he realized his end was near he received the holy Viaticum with great devotion, and saying the words "Ecce venio" (behold, I come) he expired, being only 46 years old.
He was beatified in 1601 and canonized in 1610. His tomb occupies a place of honor in the great cathedral of Milan. Saint Charles Borromeo is an outstanding figure in the period of reform on the Catholic Church in the years following the Protestant Reformation. He is venerated in a special manner as a patron of the catechism teachers. Let's pray him on November 4.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
THE FIVE POVERTIES
The First Poverty: Poverty of State
In the first Joyful Mystery, Mary's world, her dreams and plans with Joseph, were suddenly changed. God had a different plan. She was shocked and afraid, and felt, no doubt, incapable of so great a task. But her response has echoed for 2000 years: "May it be done to me according to your word."
Each of us is born with a specific plan for our lives, and given specific gifts to do it. And yet, how often do we find ourselves envying our neighbors talents? "She sings better than me; he is smarter; she is better looking; he is more eloquent…" and so on.
The first poverty which we must embrace in imitation of Christ's poverty, is the acceptance of ourselves and God's designs. The foundation of this acceptance is trust–trust that God designed me for a purpose, which first and foremost, is to be loved by Him.
It is also accepting that I am poor in virtues and holiness, a sinner in reality, totally reliant on the riches of God's mercy. Of myself, I am incapable, and so pray, "Lord, have me mercy on me a sinner."
This poverty has a face: it is called humility.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. –Mt 5:3
(Next issue: The Second Poverty)
Submitted by Linda Curtiss BSP
Icone of St. Peter
London, British Museum
painted around 1320
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!
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."