LESSONS FROM ST. FRANCIS:
On his constant fervour of love and pity for the Passion of Christ
... Firstly, how he had no thought for his own infirmities because of his devotion to the Passion of Christ.
St. Francis of Assisi
So fervent were the love and compassion of blessed Francis for the sorrows and sufferings of Christ, and so deep was his inward and outward grief over the Passion day by day that he had never considered his own infirmities. Consequently, although he suffered from ailments of the stomach, spleen, and liver over a long period until the day of his death, and had endured constant pain in his eyes ever since his return from overseas, he was never willing to undergo any treatment for its cure.
So, the Lord Cardinal of Ostia, seeing how harsh he had always been on his own body, and how he was already beginning to lose his sight because he refused to undergo a cure, urged him with great kindness and compassion, saying, 'Brother, you are not doing right in refusing treatment, for your life and health are of great value not only to the friars, but to the lay folk and the whole Church. You have always had a great sympathy for your brethren when they are sick, and have always been kindly and merciful; you must not be cruel to yourself in so great a need. I therefore order you to have yourself cured and helped.' For because the most holy Father took boundless delight in imitating the humility and example of the Son of God, he always regarded anything unpleasant to the body as welcome. . .
A short while after his conversion, as he was walking alone along the road not from the church of St. Mary of the Porziuncula, he was uttering loud cries and lamentations as he went. And a spiritually-minded man who met him, fearing that he was suffering from some painful ailment, said to him, 'What is your trouble, brother?' But he replied, 'I am not ashamed to travel through the whole world in this way, bewailing the Passion of my Lord.' At this, the man joined him in his grief, and began to weep aloud. . .
Sometimes he would pick up a stick from the ground, and laying it on his left arm, he would draw another stick across it with his right hand like a bow, as though he were playing a viol or some other instrument; and he would imitate the movements of a musician and sing in French of our Lord Jesus Christ. But all this jollity would end in tears, and his joy would melt away in compassion for the sufferings of Christ. And at such times he would break into constant sighs, and in his grief would forget what he was holding in his hands, and be caught up in spirit into heaven.
Source: Mirror of Perfection 1318
Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Ash Wednesday 2006
Reading I (Joel 2:12-18) - Reading II (2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2) -
Gospel (St. Mark 6:1-6, 16-18)
In the second reading today, Saint Paul says to the Corinthians that he is an ambassador on behalf of Christ who is calling out to be reconciled with God, and he tells us that this is the day of salvation, that this is the acceptable time. The Church today gives us this holy season as the acceptable time, as the time when we are called to make changes in our lives. And it is made clear by Our Lord how that is to be done. It is to be done secretly.
There are a couple of things we can look at. First of all, today is a day of fasting and sometimes when people fast they get a little on the cranky side. So Our Lord is telling us, "Make sure that you don't do that. Make sure that the way you fast is in a way that no one else would recognize that you are fasting." If we are going to be fasting, we need to make sure that we are trying even harder to be charitable. Not being phony about anything, but making sure that we are not allowing the hunger in our stomachs to turn into anger in our hearts and to become mean or nasty in any way. We need to make sure that what we are doing is taking our physical hunger and changing it into a spiritual hunger so that the heart becomes more longing for what is right and good.
That is precisely why we are told in the prophet Joel that we are to rend our hearts and not our garments. And while we prayed in the responsorial psalm, Create for me, O God, a clean heart, that is what Our Lord is looking for. He is looking for a heart that is open to Him. He is looking for a heart that is pure and wants to be purified even more. That is what this season is all about. If this is the day of salvation and this is the acceptable time, as Saint Paul tells us, then we need to make sure that we are calling ourselves to true holiness and seeking to be reconciled with God.
In this holy time, what we need to do, first of all, is to look at our sinfulness, to confess our sins, and to strive to overcome them. But if this is a time of holiness, then it is not just a time of a small, perfunctory kind of penance that we might do, but it is a call to truly be holy. So we need to look at our prayer life and we need to look at our relationship with God. If Saint Paul is telling us in his Letter to the Corinthians that we are to be united with Christ, then it is also to be united with Him in His suffering. When we look at the fact that this is a day of salvation, what was necessary for our salvation? It was necessary that Jesus Christ would take on our human nature and that He would suffer and die and rise again. We are asked now, because we are partakers in the divine nature, to unite with Him, to elevate ourselves above an earthly level, so that the penances we choose during this holy season are going to be truly holy penances, so that they are going to be something spiritual. If Jesus came to us and took on our nature so that He could suffer and die and give us His nature, it is so that we could be lifted up, so that we could be truly holy as He is holy.
The only way we are going to achieve that kind of holiness is through prayer and self-denial. If we can strive in this holy season to overcome sin and to increase and improve and perfect our prayer life, then this truly becomes a holy season. If, on the other hand, we are running around making sure that people know what penances we have chosen to do (as Jesus tells us not to do), then He tells us we have already received our reward. It is not a holy season for us then because it is selfish. He tells us to make sure that the things we do are done in secret. On a day like today when we are called to fast, if we become angry, impatient, or mean, then it is not a holy day. Then our fasting becomes an occasion of sin rather than a means to holiness. Again, we need to make sure that we are augmenting our fasting with prayer. The saints tell us that if we want our prayer to be heard, it is fasting that gives power to the prayer. But it is also the prayer that obtains for us the grace to be able to fast, and so we need both. These are the things we can think about, to make sure we are not doing things in order that other people would see them, to do things that are truly going to help us grow in holiness, to make sure we are doing the things that are going to help us reconcile with God and live a more perfect life.
That is what this holy season is all about, to look into our hearts and tear them open, to rend the heart. What that literally means is to rip it in half, because we know that we are sinners and we need to come before the Lord with a broken heart. Not with pride and arrogance, but with humility, with sorrow, and with a broken heart. When we come before Him in that kind of state, then we are going to be willing to deny ourselves, then we are going to be willing to do what we need to do to change so that we can stop offending Him. If, on the other hand, we want to come before Him and try to present ourselves as all put together and not really in need of anything, then it is with arrogance that we come to Him and we are not going to seek any kind of reconciliation because we do not think we need it.
So as we begin this time of Lent, the first thing we have to do is to reflect within ourselves, and the hunger that we feel from the fasting today will help us to be able to do that. Do not think about your stomach – think about your heart. Just think about how much your soul has been starving for prayer, for the Word of God, for true holiness. Look beyond the physical hunger to the spiritual hunger. Look beyond the external things to the internal things and ask yourself: What am I doing and why am I doing it? And make sure that what we are doing are the things that will help to bring a reconciliation and a growth in holiness, that what we are doing is done for the right reason: so we can get rid of sin, so we can grow in holiness and be more perfectly united with Jesus Christ.
This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.
"In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world." (1JN 4:17)
This Scripture is from Wednesday after the Epiphany, and it spoke to us.
We are brought to perfection. We do not go there of ourselves. We are moved by the Spirit of God. There are many among us who think they find this perfection in themselves and of their own actions because of what they do or who they think they are. Wisdom prevails in us when we realize that all that we do that is good; all good in us, is a gift of God and from the motion of God in us as in the entire Universe.
None of us can even comprehend the power of God. Mary has warned us of this truth in her modern messages to our world. This God of ours has set systems in motion to do all things, or He just does them of Himself. He has expanded his power, which is infinite in and of itself, through laws of nature which, are of themselves unalterable. He has set systems in place that keep the things he has created in perfect order, and He has done the same for each of us. Each of us. Ponder those words alone. He is present to each of us and understands each of us in our own individual and unique nature as if there were only one of us on the earth. All of us can pray at once and each be heard as if we were praying alone. Can a God like this not bring us to perfection.
What is this perfection. The Scripture says "love is brought to perfection" so love is the new law of the Word for us; to love is perfection. The law we need to embrace in our souls. We cannot do that without God, who brings this love to fulfillment in us and moves in us if we but say and act like we believe in Him. That is Faith in its greatest simplicity. Believing that God exists and that He cares for each of us and that He will be there when we need Him and there are problems in our lives!
Problems and trials are one of the ways he 'brings us to perfection'. If you study the stages of prayer they are three. Purgation, Illumination and Union. It takes a lifetime to move through these stages for most of us. Perhaps all of us. The Saints may have moved faster due to either their particular gifts or the motion of the Spirit of God who wished to raise up Saints to be our examples and help to teach us. We can and should all seek to be Saints. However, we cannot be without the motion of God in us and in that motion His approval. He will approve, as we are all called to be saints by the Lord.
Problems and trials all relate to our purgation in one way or the other. We have problems. We work hard to cope with them. They test us and try us. Do we stay focused on God in trying to handle them? If we do we are doing well. If we do He will move us, bring us, to a deeper understanding of His call and in that deeper understanding he will be, invisibly usually, purging us from our natural attachments to this world. We can work and should to remove these attachments, but that is not easy. In fact, it is not possible without the motion of God. If we did not know God we would focus on expanding our attachments and find our consolation here. Naturally. To our detriment.
So, God will bring us to perfection by purging us of this world. Illuminating us as to what He wants from us and what we are to do, and finally, and most importantly, by uniting us to His Spirit. In this union is heaven. We and God become one, and we live forever in his eternal divinity, and as so many Saints have said, we become God.
Let us rejoice in that. Let us thank God for that and let us bear our trials patiently, even when we cannot comprehend why they are happening, realizing that through our trials God opens the door for us to come to a deeper relationship with Him. Ever more perfect as it grows in time and depth. Have a holy and happy Lent!
May God bless us all!
Bruce and Shelley BSP
From the Second Reading on Ash Wednesday
by Janet Klasson BSP
"So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. "
(2 Cor 5:20)
In this continuing exploration of what it means for us penitents to live out our baptismal calling of priest, prophet and king, I want to focus on the second office, that of prophet. Just as there is a substantial difference between the priestly office of the laity and the sacramental priesthood, so too is there a difference between the prophetic office of the laity and the traditional biblical meaning of the word prophet. In both cases, the prophet is given a message. In the case of the baptized Christian, I believe that message may be condensed into one word: hope.
Those holy souls whose merits have gained them eternity in heaven no longer have any need for hope; every longing and desire is fulfilled in ways we cannot imagine. They exist in perfect communion with a perfect community of perfect love. There is nothing left to hope for. For those of us left on earth it is a different story. We are deeply in need of hope, a commodity that seems to be in shorter and shorter supply these days, and "these days" are far from over. Terrorism, wars, global warming, natural disasters, instability in the world economy, all these things are causing a crisis of hope in the world. The world is in need of prophets of hope. It is time for the baptized to embrace their baptismal call to be "ambassadors for Christ" as the above Scripture passage says.
Our beloved Pope John Paul II was himself a "witness to hope". And his worthy successor has also embraced this message in his latest encyclical: Spe Salvi (SS) - Saved by Hope. I have chosen just a few excerpts from this document to explore what means to be prophets of hope as penitents in the world.
Paul reminds the Ephesians that before their encounter with Christ they were "without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). Of course he knew they had had gods, he knew they had had a religion, but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were "without God" and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future. (SS)
Even though 2000 years have past since St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, his words are as relevant to our day as they were to his - perhaps even more so. In this paragraph, Benedict XVI has hinted at an eerie parallel to "a dark world facing a dark future". But, as a prophet of hope himself, he does not leave us in the dark.
Here too we see as a distinguishing mark of Christians the fact that they have a future: it is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well. (SS)
Ah, here is a hint of what it means to be prophets of hope. It is echoed in 1 Peter 3:15 Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope. We know that what we experience here on earth is only temporary, that we are made for eternity. It is this faith that allows us to live hope-filled lives on earth, in any circumstance. Our faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to every moment of our lives, joy or sorrow, celebration or suffering. That is a message worth passing on!
To come to know God—the true God—means to receive hope. We who have always lived with the Christian concept of God, and have grown accustomed to it, have almost ceased to notice that we possess the hope that ensues from a real encounter with this God. (SS)
We have tasted the goodness of the Lord! How often have we taken this for granted! We should pray for the opportunity to speak about our personal knowledge of God with those God sends us. I think it is important to be patient in this and rely on God's timing. As a priest once told me: "Let it happen, don't make it happen." If you are willing, God will send you souls. When it happens, you will know. Then let the hope you have in Christ Jesus be a beautiful gift you pass on at the appointed time.
It is important to keep in mind that a darkened world will probably not welcome prophets of hope. Our Lord himself prophesied about this in Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. We must be ready for whatever comes, good or bad, praise or persecution. It is this life of prayer and penance that strengthens us for our mission. It allows us to discard what is unnecessary and focus on what is important - the will of God alone. Whether praise comes or persecution, it should be all the same to us as long as God's will is served. As we read in 1 Peter 2:9 You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. At all times, in all circumstances, we announce His praises.
Here is one last quote from Spe Salvi that I want to leave with you, a beautiful image given to us by the Holy Father, an image well worth pondering as we consider our call to be prophets of hope.
When you (Mary) hastened with holy joy across the mountains of Judea to see your cousin Elizabeth, you became the image of the Church to come, which carries the hope of the world in her womb across the mountains of history. (SS)
This is one more way we can take Mary as our model as we strive to live our call to be prophets of hope.
Janet Klasson BSP - Canada
Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed ...
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved ...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others ...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised ...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...
That others may be loved more than I ...
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should …
Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
From: Janet Klassen BSP—Canada
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - February 2008
"'Peace be with you.' The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said to them, 'Peace be with you." (John, 20)
The subject of peace cannot be easily resolved. While attempting a follow-up to last month's article on the inner peace the Lord gives us (by overcoming any personal hostility we may have toward Him), I am overwhelmed by the amount of subject material available.
Pope Benedict XVI gave a wonderful message on the World Day of Peace: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace." A great subject to examine, and hopefully soon, for he clearly showed that one's relationship with God is dependent upon our relationship with the human family. Our relationship with God PRESUPPOSES we are living in peace with our neighbor. Sacred Scripture is full of admonitions to do just that, such as Jesus telling us to "leave your offering at the altar and first go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and present your offering." Anything we hold in our heart against our neighbor needs to be taken care of BEFORE we can effectively raise our minds and hearts to God.
But then I read the following testimony which perfectly illustrates the point I was trying to make about how difficult it is to obtain the peace the Lord offers: "It was the end of an intense war between myself and God." This was said by a man who was freed by the grace of God from a homosexual lifestyle. He was just thrilled, and it changed his life – and his relationship with God - completely. This man was aware of his inner struggle, pitting the wishes of the creature against the will of the Creator. He is now free to carry on an intimate relationship with God, impossible if one is enslaved to sin. God will not be mocked. It is true God loves us even when we are in sin, but we are not to remain there. Freedom carries a high price.
The book of Job articulates the price Job paid for his fidelity, for his freedom from the sin of turning against God. He lost virtually everything most people hold dear, yet he refused to curse God: "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." He is tested further, but remains steadfast: "Oh that God would grant what I hope for, that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose His hand and cut me off! Then I would still have this consolation – my joy in unrelenting pain – that I had not denied the words of the Holy One."
Do we have that kind of true devotion in the midst of the greatest suffering? It's easy to be faithful when we are on the mountain with the Lord. But what happens when we are in the valley of the shadow of death, abandoned? How can we fortify ourselves for that awful journey, knowing we may have to travel down that road at any time?
As followers of Francis, we learn how he faced perhaps his biggest challenge. For even St. Francis, that eminent man of peace if there ever was one, found himself, not unlike Job, in a struggle with God when he felt he was losing everything. About three years before he died, Francis saw his original vision for his Order slipping away. His friars had rejected what to their minds was a Rule so strict they could not - or would not - follow it. How many after all can follow in the footsteps of a one-of-a-kind SAINT? How many have the zeal to match St. Francis, or respond to God's grace like he did? Some, but not many. Francis wanted his vision to endure, even if for only for a few. Live the Gospel totally, without diminishing any of its hard sayings, without minimizing the heroic virtue needed to accomplish the humanly impossible.
Francis wrestled with the Lord over the issue. He had no peace. Jesus finally told him that the Order of Friars Minor belonged to HIM, not to Francis. All the blood, sweat and tears that Francis had put into the Order was not for his own benefit, but for the glory of God. And God would determine how that was to happen. Francis had to voluntarily surrender to God that which was most precious to him – the future of his Order. Only when he willingly and lovingly gave this precious gift completely into the hands of God did he find peace. Freed from concern about his brothers, he was ready for the transformative union with God which subsequently took place, shown in a visible way by the imprint of the wounds of Jesus on his body.
Jesus makes it clear that the servant is not above his Master. That puts us in our proper place. Mary called herself the handmaid, the servant of the Lord. If she, the Mother of God, knew her place in life, how much more should we be aware of it, the rest of us poor sinners? It's humbling to know we are totally dependent upon the will of our Master, but also enlightening, for it puts life in proper perspective. Paul the Apostle continually states that as servants, our goal is to live a life pleasing to God. That's not possible if we hold any kind of grudge against Him. Are we aware of anything that may be displeasing to Him?
We are told that prayer is all about listening to the quiet, still voice of God: "If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts." Do we want to hear His voice, or might He tell us something we don't want to hear? As a servant, we need to look at these things in a different perspective. Be open to hearing His voice, but also ask ourselves: is He open to hearing ours? Is He pleased with our efforts to carry out His will? To return love for Love? Or are we obstinately resisting giving to Him that which is most precious to us? Complete self-surrender has to be the most painful duty required of us. And that requires knowledge of self that few possess. The Saints with the most self-knowledge considered themselves the greatest sinners. Yet they came before God with a clear conscience, and He looked upon them with favor.
I cannot imagine doing anything to deliberately offend God. In weakness, yes. Deliberately, no. Perhaps that's what John the Evangelist meant in John I: "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning." Cannot deliberately offend God. We pray: "I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed." If that is our disposition, how can God not give us His Peace? Then we can joyfully accept and respond to His love.
Paul Beery BSP
HAVE MERCY ON ME, O GOD!
"Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin."
Of course, you recognize these words as the beginning of Psalm 51; one of the Psalms we BSP members pray every day. We have begun the Lenten Season, the most solemn season in the Church year. For these 40 days, we are asked to meditate on the Passion of our Lord, Jesus. We are also asked to look within in order to know with certainty that we each stand in need of God's mercy, compassion and purifying grace. Using the word "wretched" to describe our own personal state of soul may, at first, sound a bit harsh to some. But our beloved Father in Christ, St. Francis, often referred to himself as wretched. It seems that the closer one draws to God, the more shabby and wretched the state of their own soul appears in comparison to the splendor and purity of God's essence.
During Lent, we are asked, once more, to consider the great price God paid for our sins in the Person of Jesus. Our God of perfect purity became one of us. He had no wretchedness of His own, but He took all of our wretchedness onto Himself, and that happened at the Incarnation. That innocent little babe in that serene manger scene we depict every Christmas in our homes and churches had already taken our wretchedness upon Himself. That young Lad baffling the rabbis in the Temple with His wisdom, had already taken our wretchedness upon Himself. That gentle, forgiving, healing Master who spoke to the multitudes had already taken on our wretchedness. That battered, beaten, broken Man on the cross had taken our wretchedness upon Himself. Consider Jesus on the cross. That's the price He paid to buy us back from sin. That's what Divine Love looks like.
It is easy for us to forget that Jesus' whole life was about being our "scapegoat". In His day, once a year, Jews would go to the Temple for the Day of Atonement. A goat was chosen, and the prayers of the people and the priests took the sins away from the people and put them into the goat. The goat was then taken outside and thrown off a cliff. Thus the term "scapegoat". Well, Jesus is our scapegoat. He took all of our sins upon Himself from his Incarnation right up to His last breath on the cross.
Our ability to increasingly understand the profoundness of that kind of love may take us to some very uncomfortable places. With God, there is no time. Time is a manmade illusion. With God, all time is present. Therefore, humanity is falling into Original Sin in the present; Jesus is born in the present; Jesus is teaching us, in the present; and Jesus is dieing for us IN THE PRESENT. If we don't face this fact, it is easy to think; "Oh well, all the sins of the world have already been taken care of when Jesus died on the cross those 2,000 years ago. His suffering is long over." NO, Jesus' suffering for our sins is NEVER OVER. That is why, being a "penitent" is so important. By being penitents, we are admitting that we are wretched and in need of mercy and salvation. By being penitents, we are acknowledging that, left to our own devices, we are damned for all of eternity. By being penitents, we accepting the great Gift of Love Jesus is for us. And, by being a penitent, we are asking Jesus for the privilege to allowing us to share in the cross with Him…. a cross that , in fact, should be our cross.
It may be difficult for us to get our minds around this, but by our prayers and penance, as small and miserable as they may be, we ARE sharing in the suffering of Jesus. We ARE easing His burden. We ARE taking part in the salvation of the world. And Jesus does not consider our efforts small or meaningless. To Jesus, our prayers and penances are giving Him more than lip service. We are showing Him that by taking on some small discomfort, we are demonstrating our love and gratitude to Him for all that He is and all that He does for us.
There are so many who never acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior. There are so many who attend church out of a sense of obligation, or to fit in with the local community. There are so many who don't see their own sinfulness and what it has cost our God. Each time a person denies Jesus, His suffering is increased. Each time a person lies, steals or sins in any other way, Jesus' suffering is increased. As penitents, we have stepped forward and claimed our own sinfulness. We know that we are wretched. We know that of ourselves, we can do nothing. But, as penitents, we are also asking God to accept our meager offering of prayer and penance and to join them with the merits of Jesus' suffering. We are not only standing as grateful recipients of the grace Jesus' brings to us in His suffering. We are also standing with Jesus as our Brother and offering to share in His suffering. This is what it means to be a penitent.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me. Don not banish me from your presence, and don't take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you."
We are asked to share in the agony of our Savior and Lord. We are also asked to be joyful; for the joy of salvation was bought at a great price. On Good Friday, Jesus offers to cleanse our hearts with His blood. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His victory over sin…. our sin. That is, indeed, something to be joyous about. And that joy brings us full circle, back to the place of obedience through prayer and penance.
Victoria Clair BSP – South Korea
From the Sparrow: Coping…
In the life of each believer there is usually certain Scripture verses that are special in that these verses are remembered in context of times of trials and troubles that often brought about sorrow and suffering. Seemingly, and against all odds, these words brought about some form of consolation and hope if these words could be trusted to be really speaking to the person for God. (Which all Scripture does.)
I can vividly recall some time ago being in a dark part of my life and reaching the end of my rope. There was darkness and despair all around me. I had given up on faith in God for a long time previous to this depression.
From out of nowhere a man passed through my life unannounced and certainly uninvited. He said a few things and then left leaving behind a small pocket-sized New Testament.
At this point in my life I'd never read the New Testament from beginning to end. Seeing that I had plenty of time on my hands and nothing to lose as everything was already lost I opened the little book and began to read.
Nope. No great enlightenment came to me. No angels appeared to console me. No heavenly choir could I hear. Truthfully, the little book contained some of the most depressing words I'd ever read in that these words showed me how far away from the Christian life I had traveled.
However, there were a few verses that seemed as if they leaped off the pages from the little New Testament. I was at a complete loss as how this could happen. For years those verses stayed with me and haunted my mind with the possibility that these words could be real and have meaning.
The first of these verses to do that was Matthew 11:28-30:
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for y ourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
It seemed to me as if Jesus was saying that He understood and that HE WAS HOLDING OUT HELP AND HOPE TO THOSE WHO COULD, OR WOULD, TURN TO HIM! At this time society, my family, the Church and even myself all agreed that there was no hope for me!
The second reading was from Luke 15 and the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. What a sad feeling these invoked in me when I read about a man going in search for his lost sheep for that is not the way the world works. When the people of the world lose anything they just cut their losses and move on. At that time, in my mind, no one would spend time looking for the lost and marginalized people of society.
Still, I found it moving that someone had ever even thought that the lost sheep needed to be cared for too! However, I just really didn't believe there was any people who'd actually go and look for these lost souls. Jesus saying it was one thing people actually doing it was quite another.
Then, about 25 years ago and under the most unusual circumstances imaginable I met and was befriended by a 60 year old Franciscan nun. We have been exchanging letters about the Catholic Faith for these 25 years. Her name is Sister Aimee Marie O.S.F. (Order of St. Francis).
From the first letter to the last one this Franciscan nun was on a mission. She wanted me to know that God loved me, forgave me and was above all else my Father and friend. The light of the Gospel came shining through and she cut down all obstacles in me with her faith and the Word. God was love and he loved me…me, the second class marginalized lost sheep/lost son. What a thrilling experience to see the words of Scripture come alive in this Franciscan woman's gospel centered life and touch my own life.
This is how I became interested in becoming a Franciscan myself. I was able to see that she arrived at her great state of love by her life lived in imitation of St. Francis that led to a total commitment to God. All Franciscans given a little time and practice should be able to do as Sr. Aimee has done with her love for the Lord, and that is to rescue the lost and lonely.
The words of Roy Lessen seem appropo in closing:
COME TO ME
When you are hurting,
COME TO ME and
I will bind your wounds.
When you need to be assured,
COME TO ME and
I will give you My embrace.
When you can no longer go on,
COME TO ME and I will carry you.
When you need comfort,
COME TO ME and
I will wipe away your tears.
When you are uncertain of my love,
COME TO ME and
I will speak to my heart to you.
Always remember that
In your need
you are coming to the One
who came for you.
Today, may you be confident of His presence, certain of His promises, and assured of His love.
May the love of God and the blessings of
St. Francis be yours!
Robert "Robin" Hall BSP
(Robin is a professed member of the BSP who is currently serving time in the Federal Correctional Institution. He went through formation and professed while still there. This article is drawn from his monthly newsletter, The Sparrow. Let us keep him in our prayers.)
NEWS ON THE ASSOCIATION
At the Feet of Jesus - Divine Mercy Chapter Update
Praise be to God! Our small, yet growing chapter, had its second in-person meeting on January 11, 2008. Members Janet Klasson, Rhonda L'Heureux and Allison Bennett were in attendance in Wainwright, Alberta, Canada. Irene Deprey from Creston, BC and Sherry Matteotti, Winnipeg, MB were unable to be with us because the long traveling distance to Wainwright. However, they are always with us in spirit.
After a delicious serving of meatless Chinese cuisine we delved into the first two postulancy lessons. What a lively discussion! Our calling from Christ to live the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance is what brought us together and what a gift this is. We discussed our desire to serve Christ and shared how the Rule is a tool to help us grow in our faith and to reach our mutual goal of holiness. We identified some of the challenges that come from being in the world but not of it. These can be as simple as people commenting on our clothes i.e. "Wow, you would look so nice in pink." to more complex choices like turning away from situations or relationships that may be unhealthy and lead us into a pattern of sin.
It's amazing how Jesus is working in our lives. In getting to know each other in our Chapter we realized that even though we come from different backgrounds with our own unique life experiences, we are all united in Christ. Our group surprised each other by sharing how each of us has an overwhelming urge to be close to Christ in a more tangible way. This has manifested itself in the desire to kiss the tabernacle or to be right at the feet of Jesus, or to lie prostrate at the foot of the altar. May we only thank God for choosing us to be His children.
A sixth member joined our chapter in January, 2008. Andrea Bodnar from New Westminster, BC will be participating from a distance at this time and will be corresponding with Irene Deprey (Creston, BC).
Thank you all for your prayers and continued support as our little chapter journeys on the path to holiness.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few." Matthew 7:13- 14
In Jesus and Mary,
Allison Bennett BSP - Canada
(We also have BSP Chapters forming in South Korea, California, and Ohio. Praise God! Please keep them in prayer, and if you wish to form a Chapter where you live contact BSP headquarters for pointers on how to do that.)
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
XIV. Purity of heart
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5:8). A man is really clean of heart when he has no time for the things of this world but is always searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes and always adoring him with a pure heart and soul.
Christ and the Samaritan woman
by Annibale Carracci, Italian painter (1560-1609)
now in Budapest, Szepmuveszeti Muzeum
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
a.k.a. the BSP, is a non-profit Private Association of the Faithful, which is dedicated to renewing the ancient way of penance as contained in the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 for lay people in our modern world. We have the blessing of the Catholic Church to do this through several of its bishops. If you are bound by another Rule of life in another profession of the way of St. Francis that does not permit you to enter other religious families you are nonetheless invited to become an Honorary member of our Association and add the elements of this beautiful way of life that Saint Francis of Assisi gave us to the lifestyle of your profession.
All members, and Franciscans, are welcome to submit articles for consideration for inclusion in this newsletter if they are directed towards the spiritual formation of members or are the outgrowth of the lifestyle of the Association. Just send them to the BSP at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends or neighbors. It is intended to be the primary monthly communication of the Association. And if you can find it in your heart and in your budget remember that donations to the BSP are used strictly to promote the lifestyle and are tax deductible. We remain, always, sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Welcome to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance!
"Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours."