'FOLLOW ME!'
Luke 9:23

Published for the Lay Association of

The BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE

Butterfly Symbol of the BSP of Saint Francis

of
          St. Francis

February 2007

St Francis
Francis' Humility and Obedience...a meditation for Lent…

...as Christ's true disciple, he was careful to preserve a low opinion of himself and appear worthless in the eyes of others, keeping in mind the words of the supreme Teacher, "What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in God's sight.: (Luke 16,15) He often used to remark, "What a man is before God, that he is and no more." Consequently he was convinced that it was foolish to be elated when people showed him marks of respect; he was upset by praise, but overjoyed when he was insulted. He like to have people scorn him —— that spurred him to do better —— and hated to be praised, which could lead to a fall.

When people praised the height of his sanctity, he used to command one of the friars to do the opposite and heap insults upon him. Then, as the friar obeyed reluctantly and called him a boor and a time-server, worthless and good for nothing, he would listen cheerfully and say with a smile, "God bless you, my son. What you say is true. That is the kind of thing the son of Peter Bernardone should have to listen to."

He would not hesitate to confess his faults even when preaching in public, in order to appear contemptible in the eyes of others. One time when he was very ill, he departed from the rigor of his usual abstinence and took a little meat to regain his strength. Then, when he had barely recovered, he felt urged to humiliate himself for his weakness in genuine self-contempt. "It is not right", he declared, "that everyone should think that I never eat meat, when I really did eat it unknown to them." Inspired with a true spirit of humility, he set out there and then and made his way to the town square in Assisi, where he assembled the whole population. After that he entered the principal church in procession with the friars whom he had brought with him, and there he took off his habit and put a rope around his neck. Then he told one of the friars to lead him to the stone where criminals were punished, in full view of all the people.

He mounted the stone and preached vigorously, although it was bitterly cold and he was still weak and feverish. He told them all that they should not regard him as a spiritual man, but as a sinner and a glutton, worthy only of contempt. The onlookers were amazed at the extraordinary spectacle. They knew how austere a life he led and they were deeply moved, but they made no secret of the fact that they thought his humility was rather to be admired than imitated. His action certainly seems to have been intended rather as an omen reminiscent of the prophet Isaias (cf. Is 20,3) than as an example. However, it is a lesson in true humility and shows the true follower of Christ that he is bound to disregard all earthly praise and subdue the displays of bloated pride renouncing all lying pretense.

Francis often behaved like this, so that others might regard him as something worthless, fit only to be cast aside and he might preserve true holiness of heart. He was careful to conceal the gifts that God showered upon him as closely guarded secrets and refused to expose them to the praise of others, which might lead to a fall. When he was acclaimed as a saint by the crowds, he would say, "I might have sons and daughters yet… Anyone who gives back to God the praise which belongs to Him really has something to boast about...

BONAVENTURE MAJOR LIFE 1263

Retreat 2007

THEME

The Universal Call
to Deep Contemplative Intimacy with the Holy Trinity

By Father Thomas Dubay – Retreat Master

Archbishop Harry J. Flynn will celebrate Mass for us on Saturday.

Friday July 27th to Sunday July 29th

Franciscan Retreat Center—Prior Lake, Minnesota

Put it on your calendar!

THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
V. No one should give way to pride but boast only in the cross of the Lord

Try to realize the dignity God has conferred on you. He created and formed your body in the image of his beloved Son, and your soul in his own likeness (cf. Gen 1: 26). And yet every creature under heaven serves and acknowledges and obeys its Creator in its own way better than you do. Even the devils were not solely responsible for crucifying him; it was you who crucified him with them, and you continue to crucify him by taking pleasure in your vices and sins.

What have we to be proud of? If you were so clever and learned to know everything and could speak every language so that the things of heaven were an open book to you, still you could not boast of that. Any of the devils, knew more about the things of heaven, and knows more about the things of earth, than any human being, even one who may have received from God a special revelation of the highest wisdom. If you were the most handsome and richest man in the world, and could work wonders and drive out devils, all that would be something extrinsic to you; it would not belong to you and you could not boast of it. But there is one thing of which we can all boast; we can boast of our humiliations (Cor. 12:15) and in taking up daily the holy cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father Robert Altier
VISITOR'S MESSAGE: Fr. Robert Altier:
VISITOR'S LENTEN MESSAGE

Our Lord makes a clear distinction between the way that His apostles have to be and the way that He sees the scribes and the Pharisees living. The way He sees them living is speaking, perhaps, what is true - but not living it. He tells us that we have to live it. It is not enough to be able to speak the truth; we have to act upon the truth; we have to live the truth out in our day-to-day lives.

We hear, in essence, the same thing. God tells the people that if they are willing and they obey then they will have the good things; but if they refuse and resist then the sword is going to consume them. In this case, it is the sword of their own sinfulness. And so He gives us the option: He says, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they will become white as wool." But that, He says, is only if we do what is right. He says to cease doing evil, to learn to do good, to make justice your aim, to redress the wronged, to hear the orphans plea, and to defend the widow - all these points where we need to look at justice and charity to ask ourselves if we are really living what it is that we profess.

We state the truth; we know what the truth is; the question has to do with living the truth. We cannot be about being seen. He condemns the scribes and Pharisees again for that: for widening their phylacteries, wearing huge tassels, sitting in front seats and being in places of honor, having titles, and all of these things. That is not what it is about. It is about service. And what we will normally notice is that the people who want to serve others remain reasonably hidden: While everyone else is patting one another on the back, that is the person who is out actually doing the work and serving the needs of the people around them. They are not interested in being noticed; they are not interested in any kind of recognition of whatever it might be; they are interested only in trying to do the work of God and to help the people around them. That is the way that we need to be.

We need to ask ourselves, "Where is my pride getting in the way? Where am I doing things so that I will be noticed? Where am I hoping that I will be seen and that people will recognize what it is that I am doing?"

Where, on the other hand, are we just simply seeking to do the Will of God, to try to serve the needs of others, to make sure that we are not only speaking what is right, but above all that we are doing what is right? That is what we need to be considering: that we are doing it for God - that we are not doing it for any selfish purpose and we are not looking for any kind of applause; but rather, we are simply seeking to do the right thing for the right reason. If that is the case, then God tells us that we are making up for our sins. That is how we are putting away the past deeds and we are putting on something new. It is the way that we atone for the sinfulness in our lives. That is what the Lord is asking us to do. It is certainly to confess our sins so that they can be forgiven, but it is also to make up for the sins through good deeds done out of love for God and love for neighbor.

* This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.

Bruce Fahey, BSP Minister
MINISTER'S MESSAGE:
by Bruce Fahey BSP

(Shelley has requested that since she has been very ill in lieu of our Administrator's Message that I write a solo message this month. Please keep her in your prayers as this is not a short term illness she has! Thank you for your prayers, and God bless you! )

I still recall when I was a child and my mother, who was wonderful, patient and loving, always would ask her children what we would give up for Lent. She didn't want to really know. She only wanted us to make a commitment. We had no idea why we should do that. We only knew it was expected of us and encouraged by mother and the good nuns who taught us, Felician Sisters no less. And so we made commitments. Little commitments that to us were huge.

I remember giving up candy mostly, which means we must have enjoyed it regularly. I remember it being hard and doing it so mom would know I did it. Making it known to her. Celebrating my successes. Hiding my failures, which of course, I considered sinful on some level then. All during this time little did I know that what I was learning would impact me for the rest of my life and that the disciplines of that season would wind up being at the core of a lifestyle I would be called to promote in the world, the Rule of 1221. Now when I look back I just smile, for what I didn't know then I do now. The disciplines of self denial are the core of the mystical life. When bound to a strong life of prayer miracles can happen. The Rule of 1221 is a wonderful way to live.

As we mentioned last month those who live or promote the Rule of 1221, the BSP Rule now, are certainly among a remnant. It seems there were more who were willing to follow the Rule of 1221 in the times of St. Francis, when you read his life. Today? It is like pushing water uphill to promote the life. The world of today is so full of seemingly wonderful things to do and fun choices to make. So many distractions. So much, shall we just say "openness", much of which is sinful. The Lord warned: ""narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many." (Mt. 7:13,14) We need to do penance to enter the narrow way, and Lent is a good time to practice. We join a minority when we do that. But by doing penance we learn self control. We learn to master our very selves, and something else we won't know until the Lord reveals it to us. To deep and holy intimacy with God.

So, as Lent dawns on us again we have some choices to make. I could suggest we just answer the little questions my mother used to put to us children. "What are you giving up this Lent?" But we know now it can go beyond this because we have a Rule of life, and that Rule states, at least for those professed to it, that "They are to fast daily, except on account of infirmity or any other need, throughout...the greater fast from Carnival Sunday until Easter." Article 9. That same Rule does not define fasting though, allowing us each to do that with our own spiritual directors. And we can fast from many things, not just food.

Certainly we can fast from food and need to do that on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday as the Church prescribes. We need to abstain from meat also, on the Fridays of Lent, as the Church prescribes. Beyond that we have choices to make. We can fast as the Church prescribes, i.e. two small meals that don't equal one and a regular meal. We can factor in our days of abstinence and not only fast but abstain on every day except Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. We can fast on bread and water, for all or some of the time. We can eat one meal a day. We can give up sweets, or tobacco, or alcohol. We can give up cookies, or we can practice Chittle, like the poem on the web page. "Chastised its true, but only a little." when we are not otherwise fasting. We should try to live our Rule more perfectly and diligently.

We have so many choices. All good, and there is more. Lent is also a wonderful time to fast from bad habits, or practice good ones. A time to meditate on becoming more Christ-like and living the Gospel more perfectly. A time to forgive. A time to love. A time to apologize for past wrongs. To pray more. How about working on our relationships with those around us? Seeking to give rather than receive. How about learning to do nice things for others without being told to? We can even do penance by allowing someone else to set our penances for us. Like our spouses. Smile...We have many options for Lenten observance, in addition to fasting from food. Whatever you chose, have a holy and wonderful Lent, dear friends in Christ.

Bruce Fahey BSP

Janet Klasson
A meditation

by Janet Klasson BSP

"Remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return." (Genesis 3:19)

I received a beautiful gift one winter morning on the way to Mass. We had had a hard frost the night before, so I had to warm up the car and scrape the frost off the windows before driving the 20 miles to church. When you live in the north you take these things in stride, knowing that God's beautiful springtime is never far away. And sometimes, God compensates in surprising ways.

The sun was rising behind me as I headed down the highway to Mass. As it rose, the trillion tiny flakes of snow and frost that caressed the ground, the trees, and every blade of tall grass in the ditch, caught that sunshine and reflected it back to me in an ever-changing, glittering dance of light. The beauty of it pierced me. Taking Mary's example, I pondered it in my heart.

Did you know that snowflakes start as dust particles high in the atmosphere? As they blow about, they begin to collect crystals of super-cooled water that build an intricate matrix to form a flake that gets heavier and heavier. When the conditions are right, these flakes fall to the ground in a beautiful flurry of snow. But they begin as dust.

Remember that you are dust... These words were spoken to Adam just after he and Eve had committed the first sin. They were the last words God spoke to Adam and Eve just before he banished them from the Garden. God used those words to curse Adam and Eve and all their descendants. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are born with that curse.

But Jesus came so that we could be restored to our intended glory. By baptism we are reborn. We start out as specks of dust on the breath of God. The waters of baptism transform us, begin to form us into the beautiful multi-faceted creatures we were meant to be from all eternity. Every prayer and penance, every trial and sacrifice builds us up, until we no longer resemble the speck of dust we once were. When the time is right we are entrusted with the mission of reflecting the light of Christ in the world. We fall to the earth and are sent forth to become an ever-changing, glittering dance of light.

This Lent, let us remember that we are dust. But let us also remember that God is calling us to be so much more. Let us give God free reign in transforming us through the prayer and penance to which this season calls us so that we may reflect more brilliantly the light of Christ in the world.

Did you know that the light reflected off a little snowflake may be seen over half a mile away? Ponder that miracle, my friends.

Have a blessed Lent.

Janet Klasson BSP
Canada

Posted by: Janet Klasson on the BSP Forum - January 1, 2007

Consider the Oaks of the Forest ——Letter from St. Therese to Leonie, November 5, 1893

"Consider the oaks of our countryside, how crooked they are; they thrust their branches to right and left, nothing checks them so they never reach a great height. On the other hand, consider the oaks of the forest, which are hemmed in on all sides, they see light only up above, so their trunk is free of all those shapeless branches which rob it of the sap needed to lift it aloft. It sees only heaven, so all its strength is turned in that direction, and soon it attains a prodigious height. In the religious life the soul like the young oak is hemmed in on all sides by its rule. All its movements are hampered, interfered with by the other trees.... But it has light when it looks toward heaven, there alone it can rest its gaze, never upon anything below, it need not be afraid of rising too high."

Paul Beery
NO GREATER LOVE:
by PAUL BEERY BSP
February 07

Jesus said to Peter: "Do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed My lambs…feed My sheep." (John, 21)

For over a century, God has blessed the Church with many outstanding Shepherds, true servants of the servants of God, and Pope Benedict XVI is no exception. He is truly a good shepherd who is feeding his flock the Bread of Life. If one judges by the number of people who come to see and hear him, he is the best yet. They are not drawn by the mere power of his intellect, but by the force of his words. He speaks fearlessly, with the authority of the Vicar of Christ, yet in true humility and purity of heart found only in a disciple of Him who said: "Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart." We should be profoundly grateful to God for providing us with such a source of unity and truth - the successor to Peter the Apostle. The following lesson is so profound, I will quote extensively so as to prevent dilution.

Vatican observer Sandro Magister provides the following information while reviewing a new book: "Benedict XVI: The Dawn of a New Papacy," by Italian photographer Gianni Giansanti and Time Magazine's Jeff Israely. "The actions of his predecessor amazed the entire world. Benedict XVI, however, makes news with the force of his prose. But his words do not represent a pure intellectual exercise: they are a manifestation of his faith and humanity. In the message, the messenger is made visible. That simple message is that all humanity is invited to friendship with Jesus Christ.

This message is resonating around the world. The numbers speak. Attendance is routinely more than twice that seen by Pope John Paul II, who in his turn had shattered all the records. But the most amazing thing is the relationship between the demand and what is offered: nothing but his plain words. Pope Benedict doesn't give an inch to the preconceptions that were formed about him as a Cardinal. He reasons staunchly, but serenely. His criticisms against modernity and the ‘pathologies' he sees even within the Church are fully elaborated. That is part of the reason why he has practically silenced Catholic progressivism: not because it has turned friendly toward him, but because it is not able to reply to him with arguments of similar persuasive power." One can compare this situation with how Jesus silenced the Scribes and Pharisees of His time - both by His Authority and the power of His Word.

James Likoudis states that "As the first rigorously trained theologian to be elected pope, Benedict is redefining and refocusing the work of the Catholic theologian away from the popular controversies of the day, to becoming ‘mouthpieces of the truth' in ‘obedience to the truth." (Address to the International Theological Commission, Oct. 2006) There Pope Benedict quoted his predecessor: "Since you have purified yourselves by obedience to the truth, love one another intensely from a pure heart." I Peter 1, 22.

Then he explained: "Obedience to the truth must purify our souls and thus guide us to upright speech and upright action. Governed by what people want to hear out of obedience to the dictatorship of current opinion is considered to be a sort of prostitution: of words and of the soul. The ‘purity' to which the Apostle Peter is referring means not submitting to these standards, not seeking applause, but rather seeking obedience to the truth. It is not we who speak in today‘s river of words, but it is the truth which speaks in us, who are really purified and made chaste by obedience to the truth."

Pope Benedict goes on to teach us how to concentrate on the greatness and beauty of Jesus and His Church, in an address to the Swiss bishops November 9, 2006. Here he also addresses the place of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance in the Church, as a new and much needed "School of prayer" which will draw us into an ever deepening union with God.

"In the Church, the Institution is not merely an external structure while the Gospel is purely spiritual. In fact, the Gospel and the Institution are inseparable because the Gospel has a body, the Lord has a body, in this time of ours. Consequently, issues that seem at first sight merely institutional are actually theological and central, because it is a matter of the realization and concretization of the Gospel in our time… The words of St. Ignatius spring to mind: ‘The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power.' (Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Romans 3, 3) We should not allow our faith to be drained by too many discussions of multiple, minor details, but rather, should always keep our eyes in the first place on the greatness of Christianity.

I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and '90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith - a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us. What matters above all is to tend one's personal relationship with God, with that God who revealed himself to us in Christ.

Augustine repeatedly emphasized the two sides of the Christian concept of God: God is Logos and God is Love - to the point that he completely humbled himself, assuming a human body and finally, giving himself into our hands as bread. We must always keep in mind and help others to keep in mind these two aspects of the Christian conception of God. God is Spiritus Creator, he is Logos, he is reason. And this is why our faith is something that has to do with reason, can be passed on through reason and has no cause to hide from reason, not even from the reason of our age. But precisely this eternal, immeasurable reason is not merely a mathematics of the universe and far less, some first cause that withdrew after producing the Big Bang.

This reason, on the contrary, has a heart such as to be able to renounce its own immensity and take flesh. And in that alone, to my mind, lies the ultimate, true greatness of our conception of God. We know that God is not a philosophical hypothesis, he is not something that perhaps exists, but we know him and he knows us. And we can know him better and better if we keep up a dialogue with him.

This is why it is a fundamental task of pastoral care to teach people how to pray and how to learn to do so personally, better and better. Today, schools of prayer and prayer groups exist; it is obvious that people want them. Many seek meditation elsewhere because they think that they will not be able to find a spiritual dimension in Christianity. We must show them once again not only that this spiritual dimension exists but that it is the source of all things. To this end, we must increase the number of these schools of prayer, for praying together, where it is possible to learn personal prayer in all its dimensions: as silent listening to God, as a listening that penetrates his Word, penetrates his silence, sounds the depths of his action in history and in one's own person; and to understand his language in one's life and then to learn to respond in prayer with the great prayers of the Psalms of the Old Testament and prayers of the New.

By ourselves, we do not possess words for God, but words have been given to us: the Holy Spirit himself has already formulated words of prayer for us; we can enter them, we can pray with them and thus subsequently, also learn personal prayer ever better; we can ‘learn' God and thus become sure of him even if he is silent - we can become joyful in God. This intimate being with God, hence, the experience of God's presence, is what makes us, so to speak, experience ever anew the greatness of Christianity, and then also helps us to find our way through all the trivialities among which, of course, it must also be lived and - day after day, in suffering and loving, in joy and sorrow - put into practice.

And from this viewpoint one perceives, in my opinion, the significance of the liturgy also as precisely a school of prayer, where the Lord himself teaches us to pray and where we pray together with the Church, both in humble, simple celebrations with only a few of the faithful and also in the feast of faith.

In various conversations, I have perceived now, once again at this very moment, on the one hand, how important for the faithful silence in their contact with God is, and on the other, the feast of faith, how important it is to be able to live festive celebration. We know that these feasts of faith open people's hearts wide and create impressions that are helpful for the future. I saw once again during my Pastoral Visits to Germany, Poland and Spain that faith there is lived as a festive celebration and that it accompanies people and guides them. In this context I would like to mention something else that struck me and made a lasting impression.

In St. Thomas Aquinas' last work that remained unfinished, the Compendium Theologiae, which he intended to structure simply according to the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the great Doctor began and partly developed his chapter on hope. In it he identified, so to speak, hope with prayer: the chapter on hope is at the same time the chapter on prayer.

Prayer is hope in action. And in fact, true reason is contained in prayer, which is why it is possible to hope: we can come into contact with the Lord of the world, he listens to us, and we can listen to him. This is what St. Ignatius was alluding to and what I wanted to remind you of today, once again: ‘The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power‘ - the truly great thing in Christianity, which does not dispense one from small, daily things but must not be concealed by them either, is this ability to come into contact with God."

Paul

FRANCISCAN SAINTS: St. John Vianney (1786-1859)

John Vianney

I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally . . . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.

Prayer of St. John Vianney

Many of us know very well the life of Saint John Vianney, the pastor of the little town of Ars at the beginning and middle of the nineteenth century. His story is really a wonderful story, he barely got through the seminary and he had to take his exams for courses over and over and over again; he kept failing his exams, it never seemed as if he could possibly pass through the seminary and be ordained. And he didn't really have any gifts in particular, he was a poor speaker, his classmates considered him very ugly, he was really not much that anyone would look at twice. But one thing he had, and he had a great deal of it, oh how he loved God! He loved God so much, and after he was finally ordained later than anybody else the Bishop sent him to a tiny parish in a tiny village called Ars. The kind of town that if you blink twice you pass without noticing. They figured that he wouldn't get into much trouble there and he was assigned there in the years following the French Revolution. The French Revolution had become a bitter attack against the Church and the people's faith in France. The French were killed by the hundred of thousands and by the end of the revolution Catholic France laid in ruins and the faith of the people of France seemed to be lost forever.

But in the years following that terrible revolution word slowly spread about a remarkable priest in a tiny little town named Ars. And this priest spent long hours hearing confessions and in the confessional, it was told, he was able to read your soul. And people walked out of his confessional, their lives changed for ever. God was using this little priest in order to bring deep forgiveness to people who had seemed to long ago forget about God. Saint John Vianney, it was told, was hearing confessions sixteen hours a day, seven days a week and all of France was coming to his confessional in order to receive the Lord's forgiveness. God brought this tiny little priest to this little town and then he brought all of France to that place, so that through this priest God might bring France back to Himself.

There was a priest in a town just next to Ars, and he was a very talented man, he was a brilliant speaker, he was canon of the Cathedral, he was very talented, and yet everyday all the long lines of pilgrims passed right by his church, his Cathedral; they didn't come in to hear him preach, instead they went on to Ars. Day after day he saw the pilgrims pass him by and go to Saint John Vianney. What made it specially hard for this priest was that he was in the seminary with Saint John Vianney. He was the top of the class, Saint John Vianney failed every thing. And this priest considered Saint John Vianney completely unworthy to even be a priest. So one day he wrote Saint John Vianney a letter, and this is what he said: "Lets be honest you and I, you are a charlatan, people are coming to you because you are the biggest trickster in France. For the good of the Church stop this at once. Send the people away, for you are completely unable to take care of them." What he was saying of course was: "send them to me, I'll do a much better job than you."

Saint John Vianney received the letter, he opened it up and read it, and read the signature at the bottom, and you know what he did? His face lit up and he was filled with great joy, because Saint John Vianney loved the people that came to him across France, but how he hated the praise. They were all singing his praise but Saint John Vianney knew he had nothing to do with it, it was the Lord not him. So he wrote back a letter to the priest and he said: "At last I found someone who knows the truth about me, would you consent to be my confessor?" Isn't that amazing?

Well, many of you may not know that John Vianney was a Tertiary Franciscan Brother. A true ascetic, John Vianney had the Franciscan lifestyle in his heart ever since his young age. His mortified way of life, his love for the poor and the sick, his poverty and simplicity were remarkable, and impressed everyone around him. In 1848, Pere Leonard, a venerable Capuchin of the Convent of Les Broteaux, of Lyons, gave him the Rule of the Franciscan Third Order to read, and John Vianney joyfully became a Third Order Franciscan, being 62 years old; 11 years before his death.

John Vianney loved St. Francis of Assisi and Saint Colette, the reformer of the Poor Clares. He often mentioned them in his sermons. Today a Franciscan friary has been built on the parish grounds and the friars now say the Masses and hear the confessions of pilgrims at Ars.

(Excerpts from an homily by Fr. John Hilton)

Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy

THE FIVE POVERTIES

The Fourth Poverty: The Poverty of Sacrifice

ACCORDING to Levitical law, a woman who has given birth to a child must bring to the temple "a yearling lamb for a holocaust and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering… If, however, she cannot afford a lamb, she may take two turtledoves…" (Lev 12:6, 8 ) In the Fourth Joyful Mystery, Mary and Joseph offer a pair of birds. In their poverty, it was all they could afford.

The authentic Christian is also called to give, not only of time, but also of resources–money, food, possessions– "until it hurts", says Blessed Mother Teresa. As a guideline, the Israelites would give a tithe, or ten percent of the "first fruits" of their income to the "house of the Lord." In the New Testament, Paul does not mince words about supporting the Church and those who minister the Gospel. And Christ places pre-eminence on the poor.

I have never met anyone who practiced tithing ten percent of their income who lacked anything. Sometimes their "granaries" overflow, the more they give away. "Give and gifts will be given to you," says Jesus, "a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap" (Lk 6:38).

The poverty of sacrifice is one in which we view our excess, less as play money, and more as "my brother's" next meal. Some are called to sell everything and give it to the poor (Mat 19:21). But all of us are called to "renounce all our possessions"–our love for money, and love of the things which it can buy–and to give, even, from what we do not have. Already, we can feel our lack of faith in God's providence.

Lastly, the poverty of sacrifice is a posture of spirit in which I am always ready to give of myself. I tell my children, "Carry money in your wallet, just in case you meet Jesus, disguised in the poor. Have money, not so much as to spend, as to give."

This kind of poverty has a face: it is generosity.

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me in this, says the Lord: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of heaven, to pour down blessing upon you without measure?–Mal 3:10

...this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood. –Mar 12:43-44

(Next issue: The Fifth Poverty)
Submitted by Linda Curtiss BSP

SONG OF THE SPARROW:

It is the common idea that the pathway of faith is strewn with flowers, and that when God interposes in the life of His people, He does it on a scale so grand that He lifts us out of the place of trouble. A review of the lives of Saints Francis, Clare, Anthony, Pio and Kolbe reveals that it is anything but this for the actual fact is that their experiences were quite to the contrary. The Bible is replete with stories that are alternately trial and triumph in cases from Abel to the latest martyr.

Paul was an example of how much a child of God can suffer without being crushed or broken in spirit. On account of his testifying in Damascus, he was hunted down by persecutors and obliged to flee for his life. But we see no heavenly rescue but rather, through a window in a basket," Paul was let down over the walls of Damascus and so escaped their hands. In an old clothes basket, like a bundle of laundry, the servant of Jesus Christ was dropped from the window and ignominiously fled from his enemies.

Again we find Paul, left for months in lonely dungeons; we find him telling of his fasting, and his desertion by friends, of his brutal and shameful beatings, and here after God has promised to deliver him, we see him for days left to toss upon the stormy sea, obliged to stand guard over the treacherous seamen, and at last when deliverance comes there is no heavenly boat sailing from the skies to take off the noble prisoner; there is no angel walking along the waters and stilling the raging breakers; there is no supernatural sign of the transcendent miracle that is being wrought; but one is compelled to seize a spar, another a floating plank, another to strike out and swim for his life.

Here is Gods pattern for our livers. Here is a Gospel of help for people that have to live in this every day world with real and ordinary surroundings, and a thousand practical conditions which have to be met in a thoroughly practical way.

God's promises and His providences do not life us out of the plane of common sense and commonplace trial, but it is through these very things that faith is perfected, and that God loves to interweave the golden threads of His love in the fabric of our every day lives.

Robert Michael Francis Hall BSP

Franciscan Insights

"This is the trial of souls who are particularly loved by that Jesus who was pleased to experience all the fear of that moral tempest in the desert, the garden, and Calvary. Every soul that wants to be saved must undergo something of that mysterious storm because every predestined soul must resemble Jesus. Well then, haven't you chosen Jesus as your portion? Therefore, let Him treat you as He pleases."

St. Padre Pio


Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law
Moses Smashing the Tables of the Law.
Painted in 1659 by Rembrandt
Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany.

The
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 minncc@aol.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!

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"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (MT 5:3)

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