In Medjugorje, 'people are turning to God'
by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn
(in the St. Paul -Minneapolis archdiocesan newspaper, The Spirit, October 19, 2006)
Some years ago when I was first a bishop in Louisiana, it must have been 1988, I was making my first "ad limina" visit to the Holy Father in Rome. The other bishops of Louisiana were with me and, as was the custom of John Paul II, we were invited in to enjoy lunch with him. There were eight of us at the table with him. Soup was being served. Bishop Stanley Ott of Baton Rouge, La., who has since gone to God, asked the Holy Father: "Holy Father, what do you think of Medjugorje?" The Holy Father kept eating his soup and responded: "Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Only good things are happening at Medjugorje. People are praying there. People are going to Confession. People are adoring the Eucharist, and people are turning to God. And, only good things seem to be happening at Medjugorje." That seemed to have ended the discussion and we went on to another topic. But, I will long remember the very skillfully cautious response of our Holy Father.
My Pilgrimage Adventure
Just two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to visit Medjugorje. A good friend for more than 50 years, Jim McHale from Connecticut, has been wanting to go to Medjugorje for some time. His wife was not inclined to go at this time for many reasons but mostly because she is preparing for the marriage of their daughter in New York City. We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Prague and from Prague to Split in Croatia. We remained in Croatia for two evenings before we traveled up the mountain to Medjugorje in Bosnia along the Adriatic Sea. It is quite an adventure arriving in this little mountain village which has apparently become famous because of the alleged apparitions that take place there. We were fortunate enough to have made contact with Stephanie Percic from Minneapolis. Stephanie was making her 100th pilgrimage to Medjugorje and leading a group of people from the Twin Cities, Crookston and Duluth and some from other parts of the country. Having been there so many times, Stephanie is well-known to the villagers, and she is fluent in Croatian. Certainly that helped us a great deal in getting about.
The drive from Split into Medjugorje is a beautiful one, indeed. The road snakes around the Adriatic Sea and up the mountain. At times it might seem a bit perilous but the beauty is overwhelmingly inviting. We arrived in the village on a Friday afternoon. There were 30,000 to 40,000 pilgrims there for the weekend. I was quite impressed with them all.
They were from all over the world -- countries throughout Europe, the United States, Ireland, Canada and the Philippines. Italy was well represented also. On Saturday morning we heard one of the visionaries speak and I must say that everything that he said was very solid. Someone in the audience asked him a question about "Communion in the hand."
His answer was very direct and very simple. "DO what the church permits you to do. You will always be safe."
The great moment, for me, was the hearing of confessions every afternoon from 5 p.m. until 10 or 10:30 p.m. There were 46 priests hearing confessions in various languages. What a great grace that is onto itself: "People turning toward God." I just walked around and looked at the lines. There were 26 confessional stations in which there was a priest and then 20 more priests hearing confessions in temporary stations. This happened also on Sunday afternoon from 5 p.m. until about 8:30 p.m. I heard confessions in English, and it was a great grace for me and a wonderful experience.
The Chapel of Adoration was most edifying. People came in quietly to adore the Eucharistic Lord and to pray. Everything seemed to have been so orderly and quiet, as were the groups of people in the streets and on the hills saying their Rosary and praying. I celebrated the noon Mass on Sunday in English. The church was packed to overflowing. There are pews outside on all three sides of the church in which people can hear the Mass but they cannot see it. Once again the faith of so many people touched me deeply.
A Yearning Within
This past week we celebrated the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch. In his letter to the Romans, Ignatius wrote: "Within me is the living water which says deep inside me: 'Come to the Father.'" There is something of that yearning in all of those pilgrims who visited Medjugorje. Somehow there is something deep within them which keeps crying out, "Come to the Father." They do this through devotion. They do it through their love for Mary. They do it through their love for Jesus Christ. "Come to the Father" is deep within each of one us.
On Monday morning, our pilgrimage was coming to a close. I celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Eucharist for the pilgrims who were led by Stephanie Percic. So many of them were from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and I was impressed by their strong faith and their promise of prayer for the entire archdiocese. ...All in all, after the journey to Medjugorje, I keep pondering the words of John Paul II as he was eating his soup on that day sometime in 1988: "Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Medjugorje? Only good things seem to be happening at Medjugorje. People are turning to God."
(Archbishop Flynn blessed the BSP in 1996, and still supports our mission.)
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
IV. No one should claim the office of superior as his own
""I did not come to be served but to serve" (Mt. 20:28), our Lord tells us. Those who are put in charge of others should be no prouder of their office than if they had been appointed to wash the feet of their comrades. They should be no more upset at the loss of their authority than they would be if they were deprived of the task of washing feet. The more they are upset, the greater risk they incur to their souls.
VISITOR'S MESSAGE: Fr. Robert Altier:
Mary, Mother of God -
Mass at Dawn – January 1
Reading I (Numbers 6:22-27)
Reading II (Galatians 4:4-7)
Gospel (St. Luke 2:16-21)
Every year in May, our country takes a day out to remember our mothers because mothers are the most incredible of all people on the face of the earth. Today we take out a day to celebrate God's mother because, of all mothers, she is the most incredible. When we consider what motherhood is all about and the way that it is lived - to think that life begins in the womb of a woman, she nourishes that life, she cares for it, she brings it forth; then she educates the person that she has brought forth, raises the person, cares for the person, loves the person, and all the different things that a mother does - each one of us recognizes (if we have had a good mother) the value and importance [of these things], and we all have a respect and an awe for motherhood.
But now we consider the woman that God chose to be His mother. God Himself took on our human nature and He began His human life in the womb of His mother. In His humanity he was nourished by His mother and He was educated by His mother. As He sat upon the lap of His mother, she taught Him how to pray, she taught Him how to speak, she taught Him all the natural human things that a mother does, even though he was God.
It is a mystery beyond all mysteries. Motherhood is the greatest natural miracle that we have, and we celebrate it every day. How many beautiful little babies are conceived and born every day. Yet this that we celebrate today is not a natural miracle; it is truly a supernatural one because today we celebrate the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the day that Mary is the Mother of God.
We hear how the shepherds were told about this Child who was born. When they came and saw the Child and His mother and Saint Joseph, they marveled. Now we all marvel at the birth of a baby, but this was something truly extraordinary. What they saw was what on the outside would appear to be just a normal human family: a young couple and their first child. That would not necessarily make any shepherds marvel, other than the fact that a baby has been born. But they saw something which was entirely different when they came to the little cave in Bethlehem: They found a baby who was God; they found a mother who was without sin – they found a perfect mother; and they found a husband and a stepfather who loved this woman and Child completely and as perfectly as could be.
We reflect upon the heart of this beautiful mother for a moment. We are told in Saint Luke's Gospel what Our Lady saw and that the shepherds were marveling and telling what the angels had told them, and, after the shepherds left, Our Lady held all these things in her heart and she reflected upon them. It has been said that the closest thing to the love of God, in this world, is the heart of a mother. Imagine the heart of this mother. The beautiful heart of a mother holds all the things of her children within her heart. A mother, even with many children, carries all of their worries and anxieties and concerns, all of their joys and all of their sorrows. She carries her children with her everywhere she goes. And even when her children are far apart from her, she is still right there in her heart with her children. Imagine the heart of the woman who carries all the concerns of God because her child is God.
But not only that, because each one of us has been incorporated into her Son, this incredible woman carries each and every one of our concerns, our anxieties, our fears, our problems, our difficulties, our joys and sorrows - all the things of our life. She is with us as any mother would be, and more, because she is completely with us, never separated from us. All these things of our lives she carries with her and reflects upon them in her heart.
Now if we ponder that for a moment, we certainly give Our Lady plenty of reason to reflect and to wonder and to ponder what it is that we are up to and why we are not doing what her Son wants us to do. But what we want to be able to do is give her wonderful things to ponder, to be able to live according to the way that her Son has laid out for us, to be able to allow her to reflect upon the working of God in our lives and to be able to see the grace of God at work within each one of us. Not to be able to see her children rejecting the grace of God and going off our own way; but rather, giving her the opportunity to see her children accepting God's mercy and love, accepting His grace and conforming themselves accordingly. That is what we want to be able to offer to our mother: to be able to fill her heart with joy as she looks at each one of us, as she sees in each one of us the image of her Son.
We reflect today upon this beautiful Immaculate Heart that, at the foot of the Cross, not only carried the pain and the sadness and the tragedy of her Son dying on the Cross, but carried at the same time the joy and the relief and the freedom of every single one of us who would accept what her Son was doing for us and would be set free from our sins to be able to live the divine life in this world. It is the most incredible thing that one will ever be able to ponder: the heart of this beautiful woman. Even for every woman that is here and [who is] able to understand the way that a woman's heart works, no woman will even be able to understand the heart of this woman because it is perfect, it is without sin, and it is able to carry perfectly every one of us.
As we heard the prayer for God's blessing in that first reading, that He would be gracious and bless us and let His countenance shine upon us, He has indeed done that through His mother. His face has been seen by the shepherds, by the wise men, and by all the people who lived 2,000 years ago. But He has gone even beyond that, and he has allowed the heart of His mother to shine upon us, to carry us, to bless us, to be gracious to us. God's generosity will never be outdone. He has prepared for Himself the most perfect place for the beginning of His life. And now, as He is born into this world and we celebrate the gift of Divine Motherhood, we celebrate also the gift of spiritual motherhood because that place which was set aside for the beginning of His life (not meaning the womb of Our Lady this time, but meaning the heart of Our Lady) continues to be the perfect place for the beginning of the Christian life, for the nurturing and the growth of the Christian life, and for the education in the Christian life of every one of us. We go to our mother and there we learn, there we are nourished, there we are loved and cherished and brought up and educated in the ways of her Son. This is the beautiful thing that we celebrate today.
It is exactly what Saint Paul told us in that second reading: that her Son, "born of a woman, was born under the law to deliver from the law those who were subject to it." That is us. "We are no longer children," Saint Paul says, "of the slave woman, but of the free woman." In her freedom, each one of us is set free because she is the mother who is free from sin. She is the mother who gave birth to God so that each one of us, reborn in Baptism, reborn in her Immaculate Heart, would be incorporated into God to share the divine nature, to share the divine life, to be raised up to that divine level of acting and of being so that, as the preface says of God, He would see and love in us what He sees and loves in His Son, and that the exact same thing would be said of Our Lady: that as she carries each one of us in her Immaculate Heart, she would see and love in us what she sees and loves in her Son, and through her intercession each one of us would continue to live the divine life which God has given to us until the day we can go forward from this life and enter into the fullness of God's blessing and behold the graciousness and the blessing of God, to look upon His face, with Our Blessed Lady, for all eternity.
In the meantime, ask Our Lady to give you her heart. Ask her to allow you to rest in her Immaculate Heart, to love her Son in you and through you, and to be able to learn from her how to love her Son perfectly. Allow her to love you in that beautiful maternal way, in the perfect maternal way. She will teach you and keep you on track so that you will be able to do the Will of her Son as she did in a most perfect way that is pleasing to God and will bring us into the fullness of God's blessing for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.
by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
The Remnant and our Resolutions
ISA 37:32 For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant, and from Mount Zion, survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.
ISA 10:19 And the remnant of the trees in his forest will be so few, Like poles set up for signals, that any boy can record them.
We have always liked these references to the 'remnant' by Isaiah. They speak so loudly of who we are in the BSP. It is a worthy subject for meditation as we enter any new year, and certainly this one in our modern times in this Association dedicated to restoring the honor and power of the life of penance as given to us by St. Francis.
Anyone who enters this Association and persists and commits themselves to lead a life of penance in this age is part of a remnant. By definition, a remnant is a 'trace', 'vestige', or the 'remains'. That is so true of the BSP. We, and those other individuals and groups out there now using the BSP Statutes, Constitutions, and other documents to guide their growth into the life of penance, are what "remains" of the original penitents that followed the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis. We are a remnant of what St. Francis created and we are like those first penitents anew. We don't do things to make money. This Association is not about money. We don't do things to lure members. We are not about membership. We are about living holy lives in the modern age which of itself would only condemn us for what we are trying to do. As a remnant of what was once a large family in the Church we have few who support us, who are themselves also a remnant by reason of doing that.
We need to look at that positively though. God always using remnants to put together his plans. He uses the weak to guide the strong. He uses the humble to overcome and lead the powerful. He shows His power in all of this. "The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall do this!" So, what does that mean to us?
Well, for one thing, as we enter the new year it is a good incentive to set resolutions and examine our priorities. Things we want to accomplish for the Lord as we seek to continue to overcome our attachments to this world. Living the Rule is all about breaking our attachments to this world! As St. John says in his first epistle, read at Mass on December 30th, "Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world." (1JN 2:15,16) As a remnant of those who have done penance following St. Francis we need to keep these words in mind. We need to set our priorities right!
Our priorities should be set to put God first, to glorify God and diminish ourselves. We do that under the Rule each time we give up something to live the Rule. We do that each time we pray. We do that each time we simplify the way we live for the love of God, or abstain from meat, or fast. We show in this that God is our first priority. We put Him before ourselves or the creature comforts we enjoy. We make time for God and the things of God. We treat God as a friend in a world that has chosen to ignore Him. We live a Rule of life that demands so much of us that we must become the Rule to live it. In living this life we prove we belong to God.
So, let's go on in joy into the new year. Let's remain committed to the way of life given us by St. Francis wherever we are in formation or living it. Remember the marathon. Run as fast as you can, and if you cannot pray for the strength to do more. In this way serve the Lord, and show your resolve in striving. Persist in striving to be better. That is the pace of the race we run for Christ.
Have a Holy and Happy New Year, in Christ's love!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
FROM THE GOSPEL READING... Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Janet Klasson BSP
When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
It is a great inspiration of the Spirit that the church has chosen the first day of the year to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In this feast, the church gives us a wonderful opportunity to evaluate the acts of the past year, to ask ourselves how well we imitated Jesus' and Mary's love and humility, and to ponder all these things in our hearts.
Something I have pondered on quite a bit in the past year is Mary's call to pray for the conversion of a great many sinners. St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 "But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." I have wondered, is my love that deep? Probably this description one verse earlier is more appropriate to me: "Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die." But for sinners? What am I willing to give up for abortionists, pedophiles and terrorists?
It is unlikely that any of us will be asked to physically die for sinners. But are we not, as penitents, asked every day to die to self for their sake? I have pondered my own prayer life and evaluated how much of it I devote to sinners and how much to other needs. It is a hard question, but one worth asking given the times we live in and the urgency with which our Blessed Mother has asked for our prayers for sinners.
Over the past several months, I have felt called to pray almost exclusively for sinners. At first I wondered how this might play out. After all, are we not supposed to pray for our own needs? The church and holy scripture teach us that God wants us to ask him for things. But the call was there, so I stepped out in faith. Then, what I thought might be difficult, God made easy - as always!
We get a hint of the spiritual dynamics of this at the wedding feast at Cana. The bridegroom himself made no request for help - indeed he did not even know he could. The Blessed Mother saw the needs of the hosts and placed them before her Son on their behalf. She responded in love and grace as only she can.
This has been the spiritual dynamic of my call. Almost every prayer I pray and sacrifice I make is offered for the "conversion of a great many sinners through the Immaculate Heart of Mary". My own needs, desires, intentions, all those God has given me to pray for, all who have asked for my prayers, all those who should have asked for my prayers, I place in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She gives them to her Son who turns the water of my prayers into the wine of blessing.
Now if someone asks for prayers, I place those intentions in the Immaculate Heart and pray for sinners. If I have a need, I place it in the Immaculate Heart and pray for sinners. I take care of her business and she takes care of mine. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6: 33 "But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides." Is not the kingdom - that is, salvation for all - the "one thing necessary" that Jesus spoke about to Mary and Martha?
"I thirst," Jesus cried from the cross. Are we not called to quench his thirst for souls by linking our prayers and sacrifices to his for the sake of the kingdom?
We do not know what this year will bring. But Jesus has asked Mary to call us to pray for sinners. Let us follow her admonition to "do whatever he tells you". May his kingdom come for all, and come quickly.
Have a blessed New Year, dear brothers and sisters.
Janet Klasson BSP
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid." (Jn. 14)
What does it mean to wish each other the peace of Christ? It's an inner peace, very different from the peace the world can give. It is said we need to have a personal relationship with Jesus. No doubt this is partly due to dialogue with our Separated brethren, who speak in these terms. But we have relationships of all kinds with family and friends. Everyone understands what we mean when we speak of having a special "relationship" with another. It is something deeper than the merely routine acquaintance.
But when talking about God, having a mere "relationship" with Him seems so shallow a term, so restrictive, so ordinary, so human. The creature was not brought into being to have a mere relationship with his/her Creator, but something deeper. Nothing will suffice except UNION, union with God. Ultimately, that's the reason for our creation, indeed the creation of the entire world: God wishes to form an exclusive love relationship with those made in His Image and Likeness that can only be described as an intimate UNION beyond any that can be experienced by mankind in the natural order. Let's face it folks: that's the main reason we belong to the BSP. We are not satisfied with fleeting human relationships: WE SEEK THE ULTIMATE GOAL IN LIFE: UNION WITH GOD!
The following words of our holy father Francis, which I will quote extensively, are taken from "An Exhortation to the Friars," pg. 47 of the Omnibus.
"We have left the world now and all we have to do is to be careful to obey God's will and please Him."
By detachment, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance have literally left the world and worldly cares behind in the quest for a far greater goal. I understand what "contempt for the world" means. It may be the only thing I have in common with the saints, those heroes we seek to emulate who had complete and total contempt for the world. It's not an option, but a necessity for those who strive for holiness. A divided heart will not do.
"I write to you dear children, because you have known the Father…and because you have conquered the evil one. Do not love the world, nor anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, for nothing that the world affords comes from the Father. The cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – all these are from the world. And the world with its seductions is passing away, but the man who does God's will endures forever." 1 Jn, 2.
The world is obsessed with relatively trivial matters. Since "Silent Spring," we've had to endure worldly hyping of a series of cataclysmic horrors that will certainly doom the planet: pollution, nuclear annihilation, the coming ice age, Capitalism, chemicals, pesticides, DDT, the ozone hole, second-hand smoke, Christianity, cancer causing agents, homophobia, and now global warming, to name a few. Global warming is especially interesting: not that it's not happening in some areas of the world, but that it's CAUSED BY MANKIND rather than the forces of nature which God has complete command over. As though it never happened before. As if it can be proven mankind is to blame – the most arrogant position I can imagine. Who's in charge here: pipsqueak man or Almighty God? None of these "horrors" will destroy the world as we know it. Only sin will do that.
Yet many of these causes have been elevated to the status of Secular Dogmas. In our public schools, students are not even allowed to hear a contrary opinion on the theory of Evolution, which must be believed on FAITH ALONE, for these Secular dogmas CANNOT BE PROVEN! And those who have blind faith in Secular dogmas criticize believers for being "dogmatic!" I'll take Divine Revelation any day, thank you very much, to the fevered imaginings of those who think they have control over their world where the greatest evil is earthly pollution - rather than the pollution of sin and contempt for their heavenly Creator. St. Francis continues:
"We must hate our lower nature with its vices and sins; by living a worldly life, it would deprive us of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and of eternal life, dragging us down with it into hell."
Rather, "All we have to do is to be careful to obey God's will and please Him." Of course, God is pleased to see us exercise good stewardship over His creation, and no one loved that wonderful creation more than St. Francis. But one cannot trade the Creator for His creation! One cannot pay more attention to the creature than to the Creator! Can you not see God, who has lavished His Love upon us, wondering when one out of ten of us lepers will turn to Him and say: THANK YOU GOD! YOU have MADE MY DAY!
"In that Love which is God, I entreat all my (followers), to put away every attachment, all care and solicitude, and serve, love, honour and adore our Lord and God with a pure heart and mind; THIS IS WHAT HE SEEKS ABOVE ALL ELSE. We should make a dwelling-place within ourselves where He can stay, He who is the Lord God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He Himself tells us: 'Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man.'"
The Little Flower said that in her entire life there was never a period of time longer that three minutes that she was not aware of the Presence of God. Imagine such a prayer life! Do we need any more encouragement to seek purity of heart? "Serve, love, honour and adore our Lord and God with a pure heart and mind." Worldly cares and obsessions are of such little consequence in comparison. The Evil One loves to distract us with trivia in place of ultimate realities. I've actually taken this advice to heart, and have turned off the radio, for lately I long for the sheer pleasure of the sounds of silence, of conversing with a loving God who is just waiting for us to seek Him, to know and love Him. It's becoming a heavy burden to waste time that could be devoted to the ultimate Love of our life. And this admission is coming from a small-time activist who loves to counter Secular Dogmas with the truth!
"This is what He seeks above all else. Let us adore Him with a pure heart, for we must always pray and not lose heart; it is such as these that God claims as His worshippers. 'God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.' And so we must hold fast to the words, the life, and the teaching, and the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of His own goodness, He prayed to His Father for us and made His Name known to us, as He said: 'Father, I have manifested Your Name to the men whom You have given Me; because the words You gave Me, I have given to them. And they have received them, for they knew with certainty that I came from You, and they have believed that You sent Me. I pray for them; not for the world do I pray, but for those You have given Me, for they are Yours. Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name – the Name You gave Me – so that they may be ONE as WE ARE ONE. These things I speak in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My Joy within them. I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. I do not pray that You take them out of the world, but that you protect them from evil. Sanctify them in truth. Your Word is Truth.'" And in that Word we find true peace.
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: BENEDICT JOSEPH LABRE (1748-1783)
Benedict Joseph Labre was born 26 March 1748 at Amettes, France, the son and eldest child of a shopkeeper. His uncle, a priest, tutored him in various subjects; but from the start it was the Scriptures and lives of the saints that captured the youngster's mind and determined him to devote his life wholly to God.
He tried his vocation unsuccessfully with a number of strict monastic communities: 3 communities of Carthusians, 2 communities of Trappists, and one of Cistercians monks, but was asked to leave every monastery. He was told his temperament was not suited to enclosed monastic life.
Disheartened, he went on pilgrimage to Rome in 1770, when he was twenty-two, and thenceforth he lived as a destitute pilgrim, walking to shrines all over Europe. His only possessions, besides the single set of clothes he wore, were two rosaries, and three books: a New Testament, a Breviary, and The Imitation of Christ.
Eventually, Benedict realized his true vocation as a mendicant, without status, enclosure, or the security of a community. He would spend the rest of his life as a lay pilgrim to holy places, living out in the world the virtues of poverty, chastity and obedience.
At Assisi he was received into the Arch-confraternity of the Cord-bearers of St. Francis, a lay Association that the Franciscan Pope Sixtus V had established in 1585. The members of this Confraternity were supposed to live a simple Rule that was, it seems, a preparatory school for the Third Order. Benedict has always been considered the great saint of this Confraternity.
He settled permanently in Rome in 1774 (except for an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy House at Loreto), sleeping at night in the Coliseum, and spending his days in the churches of Rome, especially those where the Forty Hours' Devotion was being observed.
He is still known as the "Poor Man of the Forty Hours". For years this Saint was seen in Rome making pilgrimages from church to church where the Forty Hours was being held. He would remain before Jesus, always on his knees absorbed in adoring prayer, motionless for as much as eight hours at a time, even with the soft tumors that had developed on his knees. The rags of this beggar of the Lord covered a heart that glowed with love of God and neighbor, and the tenderest devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Mother of God.
Benedict Joseph not only suffered from his poor conditions of living but also from people whom he met. Some people treated him cruelly. Struck on the mouth by a stone, he was seen to pick up the stone and kiss it. Once, a gentleman wanted to report his tormenters to the government, but he refused: "No, let no complaint be made; what we suffer for the love of Christ Crucified is little."
His food was composed of the leavings that fell from the tables of others. His poverty did not prevent him from sharing what little food he had with his fellow poor. He refused all gifts except those for immediate needs. Alms that had been given to him he gave to the poor.
Benedict's sleep was interrupted by many insect bites. Due to his great charity, he would not burden others with the insects that were on his clothes and body. He would almost never set foot inside someone's house. His nights were spent under a hedge, often in the streets, only sometimes in the stable of a charitable family.Later in life, under obedience to his confessor, Benedict spent his nights in a hospice for the poor although he always slept on the floor.
On the day of his death, April 16, 1783, he attended the Mass at the Church of Trinita' dei Monti in Rome and prayed there for two hours; then he went out and collapsed before the Church. A passer-by, a local butcher, picked him up off the street and carried Benedict Joseph to his own nearby home, where, that evening at about eight o'clock, Benedict Joseph died after receiving Extreme Unction, aged thirty-five.
So great was the crowd thronging his funeral that troops had to be called in to maintain public order.
He had really been "the Fool of Christ", and a contemplative in the world.
We have a portrait of Benedict made during his life. While the saint was in an ecstasy before an image of our Lady, he was painted by Antonio Cavallucci, and this portrait hangs in the National Gallery, Rome (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica).
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
THE FIVE POVERTIES
The Third Poverty:
POVERTY OF SIMPLICITY
WE contemplate in the Third Joyful Mystery that Jesus was born in neither a sterilized hospital nor a palace. Our King was laid in a manger "because there was no room for them in the inn."
And Joseph and Mary did not insist on comfort. They did not seek out the finest, though they rightly could have demanded it. They were satisfied with simplicity.
The authentic Christian's life should be one of simplicity. One can be wealthy, and yet live a simple lifestyle. It means living with what one needs, rather than wants (within reason). Our closets are usually the first thermometer of simplicity.
Neither does simplicity mean having to live in squalor. I am certain that Joseph cleaned out the manger, that Mary lined it with a clean cloth, and that their little quarters were tidied as much as possible for Christ's coming. So too should our hearts be readied for the Savior's coming. The poverty of simplicity makes room for Him.
It also has a face: contentment.
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. –Phil 4:12-13
(Next issue: The Fourth Poverty)
Submitted by Linda Curtiss BSP
To A Beautiful Person:
If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
If He had a wallet, your photo would be in it.
He sends you flowers every spring.
He sends you a sunrise every morning.
Whenever you want to talk, He listens.
He can live anywhere in the universe, but He chose your heart.
Face it friend, He is crazy about you!
God didn't promise days without pain,
laughter without sorrow,
sun without rain,
but He did promise strength for the day,
comfort for the tears,
and light for the way.
Compliments of JUDY SKENANDORE of 3M
Flight to Egypt
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome (Italy)
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!
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. (1COR 9:24)