The conversion of Francis
Francis, a lover of creation
Francis was born in the winter of 1181 or early 1182 to parents Pica and Pietro Bernardone.
The sources generally describe his mother as being holy and pious, while his father, one of the
Leading merchants in the town of Assisi, is described as being a shrewd, hard-nosed businessman.
Francis had at least one younger brother (and possibly others) who are rarely mentioned. Francis
grew up in this mercantile, upper-class household as a pretty normal child. Being from a well-off
family, he may have been a bit spoiled and sources describe him as being well-liked by his
friends and fond of parties, feasts, and the company of women. Often he and his boisterous
friends would host lavish, drunken feasts followed by carousing through the streets of Assisi
singing and drinking wine late into the night.
He was deeply inspired by medieval ideals of chivalry and, like any normal middle-class boy
(minores), he dreamed of ascending the social ladder by entering into the ranks of the nobility
(majores). One sure way to do that would be through victory in battle, which would grant him
noble knighthood, and which he twice attempted. However, things did not go as planned. In
Francis's first military outing against Perugia, Assisi's arch-rival, the Assisian army was
ambushed in the battle of Collestrada and those taken captive, including Francis, were promptly
led off to prison. Here Francis would spend a year and become quite sickly. Medieval prisons
were more like dungeons where prisoners subsisted on scraps of bread and water and were often
abused by sadistic guards. Perhaps in such glum circumstances Francis began to question his
values and life direction.
After his ransom was paid by his father and he was released from prison, the desire for
worldly glory hadn't quite left Francis, and he set out for another military venture in Sicily to
fight for the Pope. However, he didn't get very far and in Spoleto he had a vision which caused
him to make his first significant change in favor of doing God's will as opposed to his own.
sources recount a dream in which Francis hears a voice asking him the following words, "Who is
it better to serve – the Master or the servant?" Francis answers, "The Master." Then the voice
responds, "Then why do you serve the servant? Go back to your home and you will be told what
to do." Here Francis listens to the message and acts on it by returning to Assisi despite the fact
that he would be judged a coward by his family, peers, and townspeople.
At this point Francis seems less interested in things that used to be important to him and he
begins a period of deep reflection and introspection. One might say his conversion (Latin roots
meaning 'to turn around thoroughly') began as he was forced to question his life's purpose after
these setbacks. His biographers narrate that Francis seems melancholic and he begins doing
things differently. His friends notice that he is not as interested in their parties, and the things that
used to make him happy leave him feeling empty. He is opening himself to the graces of the
Spirit and his conversion takes hold through the following actions:
• Serving lepers – this is perhaps one of the most significant events in Francis's
conversion, and Francis himself begins his Testament naming it as the turning point in his
conversion. He says that by serving lepers, that which was sweet in the world becomes
bitter, and vice versa.
• Giving alms - Francis had always been generous, but now his largesse has religious
meaning. He gives to beggars, buys religious items for churches, and donates to poor priests.
• Begging in Rome – On pilgrimage to Rome, Francis not only gives away all his money,
but he does something remarkable by trading clothes with a beggar. Now he is not only
giving to the poor, but he identifies with them and becomes one of them.
• Solitary prayer - Francis seeks out isolated places outside of Assisi where he can pray
deeply. It is in one such place – San Damiano – where he hears the words of Jesus speak to
him his life's calling – "Go and re-build my church, which as you can see has fallen into
• Re-building churches – Francis takes the Lord's words literally and begins physically rebuilding churches – San Damiano, San Pietro and the Porziuncola.
• Listening to the Gospel – Francis listens to the words of the Bible in a new way and lets
the Gospel inspire him. At the end of his life in his Testament, he claims that when the Lord
gave him brothers no one showed him how to live, except the Most High through the Holy
All of these actions were working on Francis interiorly and causing a break from his old way
of life, particularly from his father, who was becoming more and more upset at his son's newfound religion. Francis's father wanted his first-born son to follow him in business and eventually take it over. After Francis had taken some cloth from his father's shop and sold it in nearby Foligno to finance his church re-building endeavors, Pietro had had enough and he took his case first to the comune, then to the Bishop. It was in the meeting before the bishop that the permanent break from Francis's family and old way of life took place. Up until that moment Francis had had his feet in ‘both worlds' and he could always turn back. It was as if he were experimenting with religion, knowing that he could always fall back on his family. However, before the bishop and onlookers, Francis strips off his clothes, publicly divesting himself of the last of his father's possessions, and declares a permanent separation from his natural family. Then he allows the bishop to envelop him with his cloak and thus symbolically accepts the Church's care for him.
Francis disappears briefly and later re-appears vested in the penitential religious garb – the
rough clothes with inlaid cross, leather belt-cincture, and sandals, and began living entirely on
Providence. He then took up religious service at San Damiano as an oblatus or conversus under
the care of the resident priest. For the next several years Francis's solitary penitential living
involves caring for lepers and the poor, rebuilding churches, accepting money from odd jobs, and
Then, a decisive moment would come in 1209 on the feast of St. Matthias, in the little church
of the Porziuncola, when Francis would hear the life-changing Scripture: "Do not take gold or
silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking
stick." (Mt 10, 9-10) In this defining moment, Francis hears the words which would guide him for
the rest of his life and would become his vocation. The Franciscan would be called to total
poverty as Jesus himself demanded of his Apostles directly in Scripture. Francis, filled with joy at
his new calling, promptly gave away his wallet, removed his shoes, and substituted the hermit's
garb for a rough tunic, the belt for the cord. Now he knew what to do.
Three years after his conversion began, and perhaps to Francis's surprise, a nobleman asked
Francis if he could imitate his way of life. Bernard of Quintavalle would become the first
companion of Francis. Shortly thereafter a priest named Peter and a peasant named Giles would
join, too. They took up residence together in some huts below Assisi in an area called Rivo Torto.
Together they served the lepers and the sick, and begged. They were happy and joyful. The
remarkable thing is that they lived as equals, even though the first four Franciscans came from
radically different social backgrounds: Bernard - a nobleman; Francis, the son of a merchant;
Peter Catanii, a priest; and Giles, a peasant. This is remarkable given that medieval Europe was
socially on par with a caste system – the nobility on top, then merchants, then peasants, and the
lepers at the bottom as the untouchables.
Each new step within Francis's conversion gave him joy. It was a happiness that he never
received in the world. He was never truly happy as an aspiring merchant, a consumer of fine
clothing, a womanizer, or party-boy at grand feasts replete with sumptuous food and drink.
he finds joy in what previously had seemed to him repulsive – in embracing and kissing the
putrefying and decaying flesh of the scourge of society – the lepers; in giving away his
possessions and helping the poor; in self-sacrifice through penitential acts of fasting and wearing
a hair-shirt; and even in begging. It is in ‘putting on Christ', in ‘picking up his cross and
following Jesus' – in imitating Jesus – that gave Francis joy.
During his progressing spiritual conversion, Francis goes deeper each time. One could
surmise that he would not have been ready to move to the next level, had he not been prepared by
the previous step. Francis would not have even known what the next step was to be – he had only
the faith that more would be revealed. This is apparent during the vision in Spoleto when he was
told during the dream to return to his home where he would be told what to do. He was now
living in the realm of faith – not acting as he ordinarily would, but doing as he thought the Lord
would have him.
Francis does not become something else than is his nature; rather grace builds on nature and
does not destroy it, as Augustine once concluded. Francis remains a troubadour, only now the
lady whose honor he defends is Lady Poverty. He does not abandon his knightly ideals of fighting
for a Lord – only now it is not the siege Lord, but is our Lord who art in Heaven, his fellow
knights armed not with sword and shield, but with the cross, their armor the penitential habit.
Francis's conversion makes sense in light of the world in which he lived. While so many
power players were fighting it out, Francis demonstrates humility – he and his community choose
equality as brothers. Through his penance and chastising the body, Francis witnesses to the
comfortable and pleasure-seeking lives of the rich (including priests), forcing them to re-think
their values. And while the itinerant heretics and heterodox preachers were spewing out their
condemnations of the institutional Church, Francis purposely and patiently submits to his place
among orthodox superiors, including the Bishop and Pope. In response to the excessive financial
ambition of the merchants, Francis demonstrates another way - God's providence through total
Francis's life was Christocentric – his relationship with Christ was not restricted to the
Christus Triumphans, - the resurrected, glorified Christ - but it found expression in the Christus
patiens – the suffering Christ – especially with his relationship to those about him.
Perhaps that is
why he felt so drawn to the lepers – in the distorted and broken face of the suffering leper Francis
was able to see the eyes of his beloved crucified Christ; and therefore he loved them, as he loved
On the eve of his death, the saint, in imitation of his Divine Master, had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion, Elias, his vicar, and all the others in order. "I have done my part," he said next, "may Christ teach you to do yours." Then wishing to give a last token of detachment and to show he no longer had anything in common with the world, Francis removed his poor habit and lay down on the bare ground, covered with a borrowed cloth, rejoicing that he was able to keep faith with his Lady Poverty to the end. After a while he asked to have read to him the Passion according to St. John, and then in faltering tones he himself intoned Psalm 141. At the concluding verse, "Bring my soul out of prison", Francis was led away from earth by "Sister Death", in whose praise he had shortly before added a new strophe to his "Canticle of the Sun". It was Saturday evening, 3 October, 1226, Francis being then in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the twentieth from his perfect conversion to Christ.
The saint had, in his humility, it is said, expressed a wish to be buried on the Colle d'Inferno, a despised hill without Assisi, where criminals were executed. However this may be, his body was, on 4 October, borne in triumphant procession to the city, a halt being made at St. Damian's, that St. Clare and her companions might venerate the sacred stigmata now visible to all, and it was placed provisionally in the church of St. George (now within the enclosure of the monastery of St. Clare), where the saint had learned to read and had first preached. Many miracles are recorded to have taken place at his tomb.
Francis was canonized at St. George's by Gregory IX, 16 July, 1228.
On that day following the pope laid the first stone of the great double church of St. Francis, erected in honour of the new saint, and thither on 25 May, 1230, Francis's remains were secretly transferred by Brother Elias and buried far down under the high altar in the lower church. Here, after lying hidden for six centuries, like that of St. Clare's, Francis's coffin was found, 12 December, 1818, as a result of a toilsome search lasting fifty-two nights. This discovery of the saint's body is commemorated in the order by a special office on 12 December, and that of his translation by another on 25 May. His feast is kept throughout the Church on 4 October, and the impression of the stigmata on his body is celebrated on 17 September.
It has been said with pardonable warmth that Francis entered into glory in his lifetime, and that he is the one saint whom all succeeding generations have agreed in canonizing. Certain it is that those also who care little about the order he founded, and who have but scant sympathy with the Church to which he ever gave his devout allegiance, even those who know that Christianity to be Divine, find themselves, instinctively as it were, looking across the ages for guidance to the wonderful Umbrian Poverello, and invoking his name in grateful remembrance. This unique position Francis doubtless owes in no small measure to his singularly lovable and winsome personality. Few saints ever exhaled "the good odour of Christ" to such a degree as he. There was about Francis, moreover, a chivalry and a poetry which gave to his other-worldliness a quite romantic charm and beauty. Other saints have seemed entirely dead to the world around them, but Francis was ever thoroughly in touch with the spirit of the age. He delighted in the songs of Provence, rejoiced in the new-born freedom of his native city, and cherished what Dante calls the pleasant sound of his dear land. And this exquisite human element in Francis's character was the key to that far-reaching, all-embracing sympathy, which may be almost called his characteristic gift. In his heart, as an old chronicler puts it, the whole world found refuge, the poor, the sick and the fallen being the objects of his solicitude in a more special manner.
Francis would have had no way of knowing it, but his way of living the Gospel would have a
tremendous impact on the world and Church about him. All he could do was continue to do what
he felt called to do in his heart and follow Jesus in the way that inspired him and let it happen.
SOURCE: Bret Thoman – stfrancispilgrimages.com and the Catholic Encyclopedia
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
VIII. Beware the sin of envy
St. Paul tells us, "No one can say Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3) and, "There is none who does good, no, not even one" (Rom. 3:12). and so when a man envies his brother the good God says or does through him, it is like committing a sin of blasphemy, because he is envying God, who is the only source of every good.
"Let us begin, for until now we have done nothing!"
A Rule of life
"Put to death whatever in your nature is rooted in earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desires, and that lust which is idolatry. These are the sins which provoke God's wrath. Your own conduct was once of this sort, when these sins were your very life. You must put them aside now: all the anger and quick temper, the malice, the insults, the foul language." (Col. 3:1-17) (FROM THE OFFICE OF READINGS ON DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY)
Doesn't this Scripture from St. Paul say it all? People may complain about or be puzzled about why we want to live the Rule of 1221, the Rule of the BSP, but they have not considered the message of this Scripture. We all live a Rule of life, usually of our own making, and we have chosen to live a Rule of life that is holy.
When people live they get in the habit of doing things. It begins early, as children. We are not aware of what is happening. We just begin, using our own natural gifts and personalities, fed by support of our family and friends, and the surroundings we are in, to put together our approach to things. We experiment, and experience is our teacher. It is always our teacher; throughout our life. We try things, and keep what we see as good. We use our own consciences, and what we have been taught, and what we have learned through experience, to decide how we will handle each situation. And this is crucial to who we become.
If we are not taught to avoid sin, avoid anger, be peaceable and loving, gentle and sweet, we will likely find that other ways of doing things work better. A good fit of anger is more likely to get us a good meal from our parents, in some cases. Or, as in our cases, it might get us a spanking. Keeping a little extra for yourself, of Halloween sweets, or Easter candy, will ensure we have enough to last. Grabbing the best food will get you the best meal. Eating more is always better than eating less. Why pray? It takes so much time. We can go on and on like this, and move on in our life like this, and lalala. Pretty soon we have defined a way of living, and it will happen.
We go on in life. We pass puberty and a new dragon shows it heads. Desires we did not know exist as children show up. We begin to desire to be with others of the opposite sex. We notice them. We don't consider what is happening, it is just happening! Sometimes, during these teen times, we experiment with our own bodies and we discover pleasure in places we never knew there would be pleasure. We learn about sex. We learn we can have pleasure by using the bodies of others of the opposite sex. Sex rears its head as a possibility, and we know it should be bound by marriage, if we have been brought up well, but that would take too long. So, we often go and find others willing to share their bodies with us outside of marriage. We get hooked on impurity. Sometimes worse.
We get hooked on other things too. If we aren't careful we find that arguing is useful. Anger becomes a tool. We discover that people like to say and hear bad things about others so we get in the habit of gossiping. We have friends that way. We find the quick and easy life of the world. We define a way of living for ourselves. We define our own Rule of life, and that is what St. Paul is talking about in this Scripture.
So, a wise person, one versed in Christ, in reading these words knows they will put together a way of living, like it or not, and most likely they will. They need to reflect that they want to live as Christ taught us to live be because someone was so kind to introduce them to the Christian life and the possibility of salvation. Wow! Eternal life exists! I must do what I must do to attain it. Now, let's see, what is that. And suddenly we learn we must create a lifestyle that will help us reach it. So, we do. We follow what the Church teaches. We put to death what is rooted in the earth. We seek Christ. The Rule of the BSP, the Rule given us by St. Francis, the Rule of 1221, helps us to do that well.
Praised be Jesus forever!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
From the Second Reading on Ascension Sunday
by Janet Klasson BSP
"And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. "
I have just begun reading The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary - From the Visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich. According to her visions, the ancestors of Mary were Essenes, people who lived a very ascetical life and who yearned for the Messiah with every breath. They were among those who were eagerly awaiting him.
Anne Catherine's visions have been checked against other sources of historical and cultural knowledge as far as is possible. They have been found to have very few faults and many of those may be attributed to faults of memory, transcription or translation. According to her visions, the families of Saints Joachim and Anne were not materially poor, but even so, they embraced poverty. Many of them, including the holy parents of Mary distributed their possessions in this way: the best third to the Temple, and the next best third to the poor, keeping for themselves only what was last and least. In return, God multiplied their herds and each year they were able to do this again and again. In their hearts through it all was the constant longing for the Messiah.
Their longing was fruitful as we know. What we don't know is precisely what role their prayers and sacrifices played in bringing the savior to earth. On Page 6 of the book we read: "(The head of the Essenes on Mount Horeb) had knowledge of the family from which the mother of the Messias was to come, and at the time that he gave prophetic advice to the grandparents of St. Anne in matters of marriage, he saw that the day of the Lord was approaching. He did not, however know how long the birth of the Saviour's mother might still be prevented or delayed by sin, and so he was always preaching penance, mortification, prayer and inner sacrifice for this intention..."
Sound familiar? As we read the above scripture passage in light of this vision, we can see how history may be repeating itself in the call of the Blessed Mother to increased fasting and prayer. Just as her ancestors did this to prepare the way for the Messias, so we who are also eagerly awaiting him are called to the life of penance to prepare the way for him to come again in glory.
We can learn much from the ancestors of Jesus and Mary on how to hasten the day of the Lord. What earthly comfort or convenience can compare with the glorious events we long for? Whatever the material circumstances of our lives, we are called to embrace poverty by placing all our time, talent and treasure at the complete disposal of the Lord, who first gave it to us. In this way we can begin to imitate those penitents whose prayers and sacrifices called the Messiah to earth two millennia ago.
It doesn't take a prophet to read the "signs of the times" today. Still, there is no way to know how long the second coming might be prevented or delayed by sin. It is comforting to read that penance, mortification and prayer have for many ages been seen to be a remedy for this. Then let us continue in the important - not to say urgent - work God has given us to do as penitents. May His kingdom come. May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Janet Klasson BSP
(Janet will make her profession to the Rule of the 1221 of the BSP at the retreat this year. Please keep her in prayer. )
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"If anyone wishes to come after Me, He must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." (Luke 9, 23)
Following is a condensed version of Fr. Michael Keating's presentation: "On the place of suffering in the Christian life." Offer it up. Didn't your mother say that to you? So we unite our sufferings with Jesus in a redemptive act which gives divine meaning to every pain we offer up to Jesus, to every tear that falls from our eyes in repentance of our sins. Fr. Keating begins by admonishing us to fix our gaze on Jesus and His Truth, and He will transform us. Jesus knows exactly what we need; we must allow Him to work in us.
1. The problem of suffering in the Christian life.
Why did Christ have to suffer? We confront the mystery of suffering, a very hard and perplexing question. (Cf. Job 3, 1-7, 20-26). Job is speaking on behalf of the human race. David in the psalms gives voice to our prayers to God in time of need, for we are afflicted with a common cultural disease: SUFFERING IS THE NORMAL CONDITION OF FALLEN MANKIND. A Buddhist says: "To exist is to suffer." The burdens of life are too great to endure. We must tame our passions so as to minimize our suffering. We, on the other hand, cannot flee from suffering, so must first understand it, and with Jesus go through it. Priests have a special view of this issue through confession. Padre Pio said: "People suffer much more than you think they do." And that's where Jesus begins - with people in the midst of profound suffering. He comes into the midst of our inner
heart and speaks to us there. The beginning of real spiritual growth comes with self-knowledge. God sees the world as a place of profound suffering. We need to ask Jesus to come into our hearts and make sense of our suffering. And if we think we have it bad, we need only look at the life of Jesus. (Cf. Mk. 8, 31; Hebrews 2, 9-10, 5, 8; Luke 24, 25-27)
2. The place of suffering in the life of Christ.
Jesus not only endured a life of profound suffering, HE SEEMINGLY FAILED AT EVERYTHING HE DID! We need to learn this lesson. After the Son of God taught His disciples for three years, one betrayed Him and the others abandoned Him. The Teacher couldn't even convince His own pupils. Crowds tried to throw Him off a cliff. Jewish authorities rejected Him and plotted His death "from that day forward." We can hear the anguish from Jesus Himself: "For which of these good deeds do you wish to put Me to death?" Yet how did He respond? While He was troubled by how most reacted to His message, it didn't change His response at all. He didn't get angry or discouraged, or stop His mission. Jesus knew that He was called to bring about a hidden transformation in His disciples through their Faith, which cannot be judged by immediate results.
Jesus endured His Passion. By passion, passive, we think of the opposite of action. And so it was. Jesus let Himself be acted upon, but in a way He was also very active. He submitted to the actions of others in the face of evil, which was in effect His ACTIVE RESPONSE TO EVIL by which He TRANSFORMED THE WORLD. Jesus "Set His face like flint for Jerusalem" to confront the sins of the world head on, and by His great ACTION of the PASSION, He brought down the devil and his control of the world.
Jesus reached the pinnacle of His life in the Passion. He despised the pain of the Cross for the Joy of the Redemption; He confronted the darkness of the world and transformed it into victory. For Jesus understood His purpose in life. He was to bring about the Kingdom of God by overcoming evil, transforming the world by the power of His Love.
How do we imitate Jesus? We view our lives as He viewed His. Each of us can say: I am here on earth to be purified, to be changed from my fallen condition and conformed to Christ. I am called to self-mastery, to confront the evil in my heart and in the world - through suffering—which is mysteriously transforming the world the way it is transforming me. We PARTICIPATE in this Saving Mission of Christ by confronting the
evil of the world by submitting to it through our suffering, thereby conquering it. We suffer more, not less, by following in the footsteps of Jesus. Suffering comes upon us more than others when we achieve the purpose of our life here on earth. Hebrews 2, 9-10: "We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death. By the grace of God He tasted death for everyone. In bringing many sons (and daughters) to glory, it was fitting that God should make the PIONEER of their salvation PERFECT through SUFFERING." This is how God deals with all the sins of the world. Jesus gathers them into Himself on the Cross, purchasing our redemption through the transforming quality of His Love.
3. The sufferings of the Christian and the point of life.
We can actively participate in God's plan of salvation by entering into this mystery, for the inevitable result of GOODNESS meeting SIN is suffering! Jesus entered into suffering when He MET THE FALLEN RACE! Goodness meets evil. Goodness suffers lovingly. Goodness conquers and destroys evil. When we gaze upon the Cross, we gaze on the destruction of evil through suffering. We gaze on Christ Who has conquered. As He has done, so we must do, for the servant is not greater than the Master. We cannot have worldly expectations for success in life. Humility says: don't expect not to suffer. The more Christ-like we are, the more we will
enter into the mystery of suffering.
The world pretends it is not Fallen: don't be surprised by this! Jesus knew the world would hate Him, for the children of a Fallen Race don't want to hear that to enjoy the Fullness of Life they must embrace the suffering of the Cross. What God really wants from us is to see us become a certain kind of person, one with a pure heart. One who seeks the Kingdom of God, and will do ANYTHING to attain - and help others - attain that goal. Suffering is often the MOST EFFECTIVE MEANS of our PURIFICATION.
We cannot change ourselves. Only God can. He will send us through a little bit of hell to attain heaven: "Do not despise the discipline of the Lord." GOD IS NOT SENTIMENTAL! He knows what's good for us, and we must TRUST HIM to guide us in the midst of trials, and encourage us to walk through the midst of suffering which we NEED FOR OUR TRANSFORMATION. "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, the Church." (Col. 1, 24). See also (I Peter 4, 13); (Phil. 1, 29); (I Thess. 3), (4; 2 Tim. 2, 8-13); (Romans 5, 3-5); (James 1, 2-4). Only God knows the power in suffering!
"Is not the life of man upon earth a trial? Who would want troubles and difficulties? You, God, command us to endure them, not to love them." St. Augustine says. So by this act of enduring, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing what it accomplishes! If the mystery of the Cross is alive in us, we will endure suffering cheerfully. We love the fact that it is transforming us. Thus Jesus takes the fear out of suffering, so we can find joy in our life.
A Blessed Divine Mercy Weekend by Janet Klasson
Irene Deprey and Janet Klasson
I was enormously blessed to be able to attend a Divine Mercy retreat at a retreat center called Ephphatha House located near Stony Plain, Alberta, Canada. "It is a house of prayer, a retreat house, a gathering place for groups of all types seeking faith-centered activities and an atmosphere of devotion to the Lord." They have a perpetual adoration chapel. It is a jewel in our Archdiocese.
Visit their website [www.ephphathahouse.ca] and you can see the chapel and the little cabins - very Franciscan with no plumbing! Also you will see photos of Fr. Ray Guimond, founding priest of Ephphatha House and the Community of the Presentation.
I was blessed in so many ways on this weekend, one of which was to be able to meet one of our sisters in the BSP, Irene Deprey, for the first time. She rode the bus for 21 hours to get there, which made my 4-hour car trip seem cushy by comparison. There are only a few Canadian BSP members and we are distant from one another, so to be able to meet for such a special occasion was a great, great blessing. Irene was there from Thursday to Monday, while I arrived Friday and left Sunday. It wasn't until I was well on my way there, that I realized we had not talked about how we would know one another. God would have to bring us together somehow.
I arrived Friday night about 10 minutes before the healing mass was set to begin. I just had time to grab my cabin key and get to the chapel. I scanned the crowd to see if I could spot Irene, eliminating all those in bright colors or patterns or who were wearing a lot of jewelry. But that still left too many people to choose from. I let it go and gave my attention to the mass.
It was a beautiful service led by Fr. Michael Walsh of Denver, who has a healing ministry. After mass we were invited to stay and be prayed over for healing. What a blessing that was! It was 10 p.m. by the time I got out, just time enough to locate my cabin in the dark. (Note to self: next time bring a flashlight!) I stopped by the cafeteria to see if perhaps Irene was waiting for me there. Someone thought there was an Irene in Cabin 19, not too far from mine. It was a bit late to go knocking on doors, so left it in the hands of Mary and settled in.
Early the next morning as I was on my way to the washroom (no plumbing, remember?) I saw a woman walking some distance ahead of me. I could see that she was dressed in black and brown so I took a chance. "Hello!" She turned and I asked, "Are you Irene?" And she said, "Yes I am." And that's how we met. I can't help but think that only St. Francis would arrange to have us meet because our cabins lacked plumbing!
The rhythm of the retreat fit in very well with our Rule. Perpetual adoration is the heart of the retreat center and it is such a privilege to be able to pray with the Lord in this way at any time. I live 20 miles from the nearest Catholic church, so adoration was very special for me. There are numerous shrines with relics of the saints inside the chapel. It was wonderful to be able to pray together with Irene in the Presence of Our Lord and so many of the Saints. It really was a taste of heaven on earth. I felt we had landed on the mount of the Transfiguration and prayed in my heart, Lord it is wonderful for us to be here!
We had morning prayer in the chapel at 7:30 followed by breakfast. As we were in the Octave of Easter, Irene and I were able to enjoy God's bountiful gifts prepared by the staff. Then we were treated to a talk by Fr. Ray Guimond, one of the founders of Ephphatha House and also my Spiritual Director. He spoke about living a rule of life. The Community of the Presentation has developed a Rule of Life for Laity. They are trying to promote it in all parishes of the Archdiocese, as it is meant to be tailored to suit the individual. It is available on the website mentioned above. You will find a lot of similarities to our Rule. After Fr. Ray's talk, there was Rosary followed by Mass, and then lunch.
That afternoon Irene and I took the opportunity to get to know one another. What a blessing that was! We were able to pray the minor hours together, and we also went over the talk that we had been asked to give the next morning. Since they are trying to promote their Rule of Life, Fr. Ray wanted us to talk a bit about what it is like to live a rule of life, the blessings and the challenges of living it "in the world". Once we had our talk sorted out, it was time for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy followed by Stations of the Cross, adoration, Evening Prayer and supper.
After supper we heard three powerful testimonies about the work of God in the lives of those who were sharing. It was very moving to hear of people freed miraculously from addictions and other actions of God's unimaginable mercy. What God will do for a soul! By the time that was over it was time to head back to our cabins.
They had scheduled our talk for Sunday after Morning Prayer and breakfast. I spoke a bit about myself and what brought me to the BSP, a bit about the history and the Rule, and then some personal sharing about the joys and challenges of living it.
Irene spoke about her experience with the Rule and how difficult it is to find spiritual directors. Irene has overcome this by adopting Mother Angelica as her SD. She has read Mother's books and has found the wisdom and insight to be a valuable guide in the spiritual life. She had some wonderful quotes to share as well.
I finished with a few reflections on how the penitential lifestyle extends the feast of Divine Mercy into the whole year. We made ourselves available to answer questions in the library and had a few people inquire about the BSP. Many more picked up the "Snapshot of the Rule". I had also asked permission from Jason Roberts to share his story on Divine Mercy that was posted to the forum, and had printouts of that available. We left contact information with some of them, so please keep those people in your prayers so that the seeds we planted will bear the fruit God desires in those who heard us.
Then, after adoration we had another presenter, Chuck Landry, who spoke on the action of Divine Mercy in his life. Chuck was humble, animated and very entertaining. The Rosary and the Chaplet were next, followed by the highlight of the retreat, the Mass of Divine Mercy, which was scheduled for 3:00. It was concelebrated by Fr. Ray and Fr. Mike. There were many people who came to Ephphatha just for the Divine Mercy mass. The chapel was very full - in more ways than one! I was doubly blessed to be allowed to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation about 1/2 hour before the Mass of Divine Mercy.
This was a holy and blessed weekend for Irene and I! In addition to the special graces available to those who participate in the Mass of Divine Mercy, there were countless other blessings. For 48 hours we had the experience of living in community. To have a sister to pray with, someone who understands the call to penance, was a beautiful gift. I wish you could have all been there in body as well as in my thoughts and prayers. I lit a candle at the feet of Mary in the adoration chapel in remembrance of all those I am praying for, including all of you.
May the blood and water that flowed from his side flood you with His abundant mercy and peace now and forever. Amen.
A DREAM, AND A PRAYER…a message for us all
In a message dated 4/21/2007 10:58:30 AM Central Daylight Time,
Dear Bruce and Shelley,
Same day – A Reply to Janet…
I had a very brief but encouraging dream just before waking. I was sitting at a table talking about the BSP with another member. A priest came and sat across from us, but did not say anything. He listened to what we were talking about then made a gesture of joy and triumph before getting up and leaving. I believe the Lord wished to encourage us to continue the work he has given us to do for the church and for souls. May his holy will be done in all of us now and forever. Amen.
Thank you for sharing your dream. I shared it with Shelley and others.
Today at C prayer I offered it for the BSP and told the Lord today was the day to give me a message if there was one. Smile… Nothing unusual happened at my prayer, though it was sweet as always, but I got my message, didn't I. :) Through you. I love when He does that! Thank you Janet! Thank you Lord!! Shelley and I will share this story with the Morning Star Chapter which meets today, and your message.
God bless you and guide us in all things. We have work to do, and it will be on the Lord's schedule not ours. It is for us to be faithful. He will lead as He sees fit.
Bruce, and Shelley
MORNING STAR: News on the Association
(This will be a new section in the newsletter from now on. It is dedicated to communicating news and events from within the Association to all members. We have never lost sight of the fact that most of our members don't have Chapters. That too has been addressed with our Visitor recently and it is his advice that all members be considered members of Morning Star Chapter in the Twin Cities until and unless they form their own Chapters. Hopefully this Association news section will help unite all in the BSP and instill a great sense of family and unity.)
Bishop Nienstedt Named Coadjutor Archbishop Of St. Paul And Minneapolis
Bishop John Nienstedt
WASHINGTON (April 24, 2007) — Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop John C. Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minnesota, as Coadjutor Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, made the announcement.
A Coadjutor Archbishop enjoys the right of succession which means he becomes head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of the incumbent archbishop. Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn is Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Nienstedt will serve as Apostolic Administrator of New Ulm until his successor is named. John C. Nienstedt was born in Detroit, March 18, 1947. He studied at the Pontifical Institute of St. Alphonsus and the Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a priest of the Detroit archdiocese on July 27, 1974. He was appointed Titular Bishop of Alton and Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit June 12, 1996. He was appointed Bishop of New Ulm on June 12, 2001 and installed on August 6, 2001.
Contact with our New Archbishop will be made soon, through Archbishop Flynn. Archbishop Flynn has always been a great supporter of the BSP and we have no reason to believe that Archbishop Nienstedt will be any different. On the side, we have lived in New Ulm twice in our life and it is a great community. We hope to go there to meet with our new Archbishop, or meet him here with Archbishop Flynn. We will keep you posted on developments.
NOTES FROM OUR VISITATION WITH FR. ALTIER…OUR VISITOR,
ON WEDNESDAY, FEB. 28TH, 2007—BRUCE AND SHELLEY
Seasonal Messages: Fr. Altier an email reminder at
firstname.lastname@example.org and request one, or call Mary Fier at 651-450-6941 or 612-749-0660 (cell) and have her get the message to Fr. Altier. We can continue to use his articles in our newsletter.
* He is happy to continue to be our Visitor! Alleluiah!
*Urgent Questions: Go through Bruce and Shelley, who can contact him if need be.
*Every member of the BSP should be a member of Morning Star Chapter (the founding Chapter) of the BSP until they form their own Chapter. In this way you can work to keep them more involved in the Association.
*Create ongoing formation programs in the Chapters by doing a readings from the life of St. Francis for instance, or some other readings to create a Franciscan spirit in the meeting.
*An Internet Chat room is ok, provided someone wants to run it consistently for the Association. (Any volunteers?)
*Fr. Altier is writing a book on Deliverance and Healing, for priests only. We will try to get a copy but it will not be available outside of the Church.
*We could have a visitation by Fr. Altier to local Chapters, but it must be close to Regina Medical Center where he works.
*Word of mouth growth through the Holy Spirit is what we should expect for growing the Association.
We are to eliminate the Honorary membership level for SFO's and other Third Order members. It is not needed. SFO's coming into the BSP should ultimately chose either the BSP or the SFO. To live a Rule of life one must be committed. SFO's can come to the BSP to take spiritual nourishment without joining the BSP. We can accept them into the BSP without further formation if they are professed in the SFO. After they are associated with the BSP for a year they could profess in the BSP. Of course, the SFO has indicated they will not accept that, which is why the individual SFO must decide if they are going to be in the BSP or the SFO. There are 25 SFO's in the BSP at the present time.
*On the subject of living Simplicity: The Rule calls for it but it is reasonable to let each person decide what that means in their lives.
As a general rule formation in the BSP, according to the four year formation program, is to be required. Individual exceptions are fine, with the approval of the persons formation director. Profession can be to any priest, anywhere.
****VALUE OF THE BSP
Immense! It will prepare a person for heaven. By doing it you follow Jesus. By doing it you learn to pray always. It is the Gospel way. It is a concrete path to Christ through solid spiritual formation. Commitment of members is what is needed to get this done. Without commitment people will not remain in the Association.
*The Association will always be located in the diocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis even if we (Bruce and Shelley) were to move. (No current plans to do so. :) This is perfectly acceptable and normal for these things.
The Franciscan Way by Dr. Robert Alonso BSP
I wish to begin by apologizing for not writing our weekly newsletter last week. It was a week of spiritual awareness, self reflection, mourning and then rejoicing. "He has Risen" let us all keep this on our minds and live our life's serving our Lord Jesus Christ.
I also would like to take a moment to apologize, if any of my newsletters have been taken as interpretive of "Mad Behavior". I am a Human Being with many flaws, but also with many hard core moral convictions which is what makes me who I am. I believe in the laws of God over the laws of man. I have tried to convey the message, which our lives should revolve around pleasing the Lord our God. Rules and laws have been written (The Ten Commandments) way before there was even a Justice System in our globe. These rules of God should be followed and lived without hesitation. I understand that we all have had our share of problems that we would like to keep quiet about or even forget. This is why Jesus Christ came into this world for the forgiveness of all sins. My point is, do not brag about that you never have been caught drinking nor have had a speeding ticket. When you might be committing adultery (Physically or mentally), and you justify it by saying to yourself that God must understand because he made you this way. You might also say, if others do it why should I not do it? After all everyone can't be going to hell!
Living a Christian life, especially in a secular world is not easy at all!! I have noticed that when people want or need something very much, they will do everything or anything to reach their goal. Why is it that we do not give all of our energy to do God's work? But you do see many working overtime for that new cell phone or laptop they wish to have. The clock is ticking and time is passing you by, do not wait long to build up your relationship with God, you never know when the clock will stop and life sends you a curve ball. I may sound a bit harsh about how important it is to develop your inner spiritual strength and faith. Who am I to tell you how to go about it, after all I almost died two years ago (at the peak of my career) and was given the chance to start again.
May God and Our Lord Jesus Christ help you find your way to him and protect you all.
Robert Alonso BSP
TODAY'S LAUGH! ...from Deacon John
A pastor had had a bad week. On Sunday he was very frustrated and he began his sermon, "All members of this parish are going to hell if they don't change their ways." One man in the back began to laugh.
So the pastor said it again louder. The man continued to laugh.
The pastor went back to him and asked him why he was laughing.
He answered, "Because I don't belong to this church!"
"Every grace granted to man has three successive steps:
painted in 1486 by Domenico il Ghirlandaio, Italian painter (1449-1494)
by God it is communicated to Christ,
from Christ it passes to the Virgin,
and from the Virgin it descends to us."
(St. Bernardine of Siena)
May is Mary's Month!
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!
"You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved." (Mk 13:13)