'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

April 2008

CANTICLE OF THE CREATURES

St Francis
THE PRAISES THAT ST. FRANCIS COMPOSED WHEN THE LORD ASSURED HIM OF HIS KINGDOM.

Most High, Almighty, good Lord,
Thine be the praise, the glory, the honour,
And all blessing.

To Thee alone, Most High, are they due,
And no man is worthy
To speak Thy Name

Praise to thee, my Lord, for all Thy creatures,
Above all Brother Sun
Who brings us the day and brings us the night.
Lovely is he, radiant with splendour,
And speaks to us of Thee, O Most High.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Moon and the stars
Which Thou has set in the heavens,
Clear, precious, and fair.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Wind,
For air and cloud, for calm and all weather,
By which Thou supportest life in all Thy creatures.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Sister Water,
Who is so useful and humble,
Precious and pure.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for Brother Fire,
By whom Thou lightest the night;
He is lovely and pleasant, mighty and strong.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our sister Mother Earth
Who sustains and directs us,
And brings forth varied fruits, and coloured flowers and plants.

Praise to thee, my Lord, for those who pardon one another
For love of Thee, and endure
Sickness and tribulation.

Blessed are they who shall endure it in peace,
For they shall be crowned by Thee,
O Most High.

Praise to Thee, my Lord, for our Sister bodily Death
From whom no man living may escape:
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are they found in Thy most Holy Will,
For the second death cannot harm them.

Praise and bless my Lord,
Thank Him and serve Him
With great humility.

Source: Mirror of Perfection – 1318

Father Robert Altier
VISITOR'S MESSAGE:
Divine Mercy Sunday

Homily by Fr. Robert Altier, Visitor of the BSP
Second Sunday of Easter

Reading I (Acts 5:12-16) Reading II (Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19)
Gospel (St. John 20:19-31)

At the end of the Gospel reading today, Saint John tells us that he has written these things down so that we will believe that Jesus is the Christ; that through belief in His name, we will have life. That is the purpose of Our Lord's coming: that we would have life. He said we would have life to its fullness. He wants us to have abundant life. Not just natural life, like somebody, for instance, who is lying in a hospital bed, dying. The person is still alive, they still have life. The Lord wants us to have life to the full - abundant life. He wants us to be overflowing with His life. It is not merely natural life the Lord gives to us, but it is supernatural life that He is offering to us. He is giving us His own self.

These things are difficult for us to grasp. So, the Lord, many times over, has tried to demonstrate His love to us. A few hundred years ago, He appeared to Saint Margaret Mary and showed us His heart to demonstrate how much He loves us. He said to her, "Behold the heart that has loved men so much and has been loved so little in return." He is loved so little in return because we don't really believe. We don't believe in the love of God. We don't believe in the mercy of God.

Today the Church celebrates Divine Mercy Sunday. In fact, right here we have a picture of Our Lord as He appeared to Saint Faustina. He told her of the mercy He wanted to give to the people, if only we will believe. That is our problem: We don't really believe in Jesus Christ. We don't really believe in the promises of Our Lord. Tragically, most of us are lukewarm at best. We listen, Sunday after Sunday, and, hopefully, we read the Scriptures every day. Yet we walk away, for the most part, unchanged because we really don't believe. We know fully well if we did believe we would have to change our lives; we would have to do something different; we would not fit in anymore with all the people out in the world.

We would be like the apostles who were gathered in Solomon's Portico, but the people were afraid to be with them. It said in this morning's reading "they didn't dare to come over to them." Even though more people were added to them in great numbers, the people were terrified because they were different. They were not like the other Jews of the time. There was something special about these people that set them apart. Because they were set apart, nobody wanted to be with them. But each one of us has been set apart. Each one of us has been consecrated to the Most Holy Trinity on the day of our baptism. The word "consecrate" means literally to set apart. We have been set aside for a holy purpose. To do God's work, we are not to be like everyone else out there; we are to be like Jesus Christ.

It is interesting, when we look at the second two readings today. When Jesus appears to His apostles, he says to them, "Peace be with you." They were not at peace. They knew Jesus Christ, they believed in Him (sort of), but they were not at peace. And in the second reading we hear Our Lord say, "Do not be afraid." Why should we be afraid? The only reason we would be afraid, the only reason we would not be at peace is because we don't trust Him. We don't fully believe. In our heads, we know; but in our hearts, we don't accept. We keep Jesus at an arm's distance so that our lives don't have to change. We don't want to let Him in very far because we know that it will do something to us; something wonderful, something incredible, but we don't know what. So, we count the cost and we don't let Him any closer. We are afraid to be vulnerable with God.

We look at the Scripture that is here, and listen to Our Lord's words: "Do not be afraid. Be at peace." The Holy Spirit is breathed upon the disciples and they are given the authority to forgive sin, our sins. When we really know that our sins are forgiven, we can be at peace. We have nothing to fear if we truly believe in the promises of Our Lord. But we live in a day and age when the mercy of God is more necessary than ever before. It is true that we live in the most sinful society that history has ever known. We need the mercy more than ever. As Our Lord told Saint Paul, "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more." So there is an absolute, overwhelming abundance of grace that is available to us today because there is an overwhelming abundance of sin in the world today.

But that is not the only reason the devotion to the mercy of God is so necessary. It is necessary today, more than ever, because people don't believe in the mercy of God. They don't believe in their own dignity. They don't believe in the forgiveness of sin. They don't believe that God really loves them because they don't believe that they can be loved. So the Lord comes to us, once again, and He points to His heart. The rays of love flow from His heart depicting, in the two different colors, the waters of Baptism and the blood of Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. They are the Eucharist and Baptism; the covenant and the celebration of the covenant that each one of us has entered into.

The Lord wants us to understand. He wants us to know and to believe. He wants us to be at peace, knowing that our sins are truly, actually, and completely forgiven. These are not just empty rituals we are going through. We don't just go through the motions of coming here, Sunday after Sunday, and walk out unchanged. This is a reality that is more profound than anything in the world. It is the true and real presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, and the actual reality of having your soul cleansed of sin. When you kneel before the priest and hear those beautiful words of absolution, you walk out with the knowledge, the unshakable knowledge, that your sins have been removed from your soul. They are there no longer. The mercy of God is greater than anything we can do; that is what Our Lord wants us to know. There is nothing we can do that is bigger than Him. He wants, more than anything, to forgive our sins.

When we think about the events of the last week that we have celebrated, the Passion, the Crucifixion, the Death, and the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we need to think about what He did. He took to Himself every single sin that ever had been committed and ever would be committed in the history of the world. He took it all to Himself. He took them to the Cross and crucified them there. Every sin that you and I have ever committed and will ever commit has already been crucified in the person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus rose from the dead, He rose victorious over sin and death. There was no more sin affecting Him, it was destroyed. And death was destroyed with it because death is present because of sin, it is one of the effects of sin. The Lord destroyed it so that we are no longer going to be held bounds by the bonds of death; we no longer have to live in fear of death.

If the Lord has already taken every single sin that we could commit, that we have committed, or that we will commit, why are we afraid that our sins are not forgiven? Why don't we believe that the Lord really will forgive us? Or that He really has forgiven us? Think of the worst possible sin that you have ever committed. More than that, think of the worst possible sin that anyone in the history of the world has ever committed, or ever could commit. Let your imagination run for a minute. What is the worst thing anybody could ever do? Saint Therese of Lisieux tell us that is like one little drop of water in the ocean of God's mercy. The worst thing, the biggest thing that we could ever commit is like one little drop of water in the ocean because God's mercy is infinite. His love for you is infinite; it is beyond anything we could ever grasp or imagine. As big as our sins might be, they are nothing for the Lord. If you have confessed the sin, it is gone, it is not there anymore. We stand back and say, "Yeah, but..." And the Lord looks you right in the face today, as He looked at Thomas 2,000 years ago, and He says, "Doubt no longer, but believe." Believe because He promised it. Believe because He did it. He nailed that sin to the Cross already. It is over with, it is done. If you have confessed it, it's gone. That is the mercy of God.

But it doesn't end there. His mercy is so that you can have life; so you can share His divine life in this world. Far more than that, it is so that you can be united with Him forever in the next world; so that you can go to Heaven; so that you can be one with Jesus Christ for eternity. That is the mercy of God. That is the promise He has made. Doubt no longer, but believe. Let your life be changed. We need to be transformed in Jesus Christ because we don't live merely a natural life; we live a divine life. Sanctifying grace is the very life of God and it has been poured forth into your soul, if you are in the state of grace, so that the life of Jesus Christ can be lived in you. We need to believe that. We need to accept it. That is how much Our Lord loves us. He died for us so that we could have His life. He took on our sins so that we could be sinless. He accepted our death so that we could have His life. He went into hell so that we could go to Heaven. That is the mercy of God.

When we can believe that, then we need no longer be afraid. We need not be afraid to go to confession. We need not be afraid of death because our sins are forgiven and we have been given life. We have the promises of Christ; in those promises, we can be at peace if we truly trust Our Lord and what He has said. When we can be at peace, when we are filled with trust, when we are no longer afraid, then it can be said of each one of us what was said of Thomas when he made that profession "My Lord and my God" : He doubted no longer, but believed.

Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.

Bruce Fahey and Shelley, his wife, BSP Administrators
ADMINISTRATOR'S MESSAGE:

Poverty of spirit…

"Man, redeemed by Christ and made a new creation in the Holy Spirit, can and must love the very things created by God. For he receives them from God, and sees and reveres them as coming from the hand of God.
As he gives thanks for them to his Benefactor, and uses them and enjoys them in a spirit of poverty and freedom, he enters into true possession of the world, as one having nothing and possessing all things. For all things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

(Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council. – Office of Readings, 4th Week of Lent, Saturday)

The call to penance is the call to live in poverty, and enjoy with the greatest simplicity the things that God has given us. This is a radical, transforming poverty. A poverty of spirit that allows us to live in the world but not be of it, as our motto says. We have many things, most of us, but they count as nothing because we love Christ, and in that nothingness we can claim our possession of everything and all things.

We have reported before that once we gave a nice donation to the Sisters of Charity and received a note back from Mother Theresa. On that note she thanked us for our donation but said: "Remember, charity begins at home." Our greatest poverty is the sharing of our life with our family. With those God has given us with whom we share our life. And it goes beyond that to all of the people around us that are part of our life, for God only calls each of us to 'bloom where we are planted'. He doesn't make things tough. He makes all things possible in Himself.

We are approaching a new era in our year now. Lent is over. Eastertime is here. It lasts for a while and draws us into the rest of our year, Ordinary Time, which is most of our year. The poverty we are called to live is buried in the life we have chosen as our own. Even if we have chosen only to live part of the Rule and that some of the time we have chosen well. We have chosen to live a life of penance in a time of plenty. At least most of us. In that penance is our poverty.

We deny ourselves in some way daily. If we don't live the whole Rule, and that is many of us, let us at least live part of the Rule. Begin with the prayer. Never give that up. Make prayer the center of your life, even if you mortify yourself faithfully and constantly. Prayer must be there, and from that prayer life the rest of our life will flow into the life of the cross. We carry this cross and walk with Our Lord. Our hearts belong to Him. Our love flows to Him. We look forward to our crucifixion; our death; with joy. We will walk across the portal of time and through the gate of eternity. We will meet the Lord we love and serve and the poverty of this life will become the joy of heaven possessing all things, including God and by His Will, without owning anything.

So, wherever we are in living the Rule of 1221, the Rule of the BSP, the way of life that St. Francis gave us, we are in a good place. Every step belongs to God. Every sacrifice of lips that honor God, or food that goes uneaten, or prayers that never end, unites us to Christ, and in that union our hearts are open to receive His Body and drink His Blood and become one with Him at the Father's right hand for all of eternity.

Praised be Jesus forever!

Bruce and Shelley
Administrators to the BSP

Janet Klasson
A meditation
From the Gospel, Third Sunday of Easter
by Janet Klasson BSP

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:30-32)

I have a strong feeling that the "age of Emmaus" is just around the corner. Perhaps there is much that will transpire between now and then, but I believe the time will come when hearts will burn to know about "this Jesus whom they crucified". This belief might surprise some, given the way the world is treating Christians these days. But viewed through the eyes of faith there is every reason for Christians to cling to this hope with great joy. Through faith we believe that the victory is ours in Jesus the Lord!

If the disciples had fully comprehended the Lord's warnings about his imminent death and consequent resurrection, would they not have walked the way of the cross in a completely different manner? But the Holy Spirit had not yet opened their minds to the great mysteries of salvation. It is a different matter for us. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit. We can interpret world events through the lens of eternity. We know about the resurrection. We believe, hope and trust in Jesus, the way, the truth and the life. We have recognized the Lord in the Breaking of the Bread. And by God's great mercy this gift of faith is given freely to all who desire it.

The Catechism tells us in section 677 "The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection." Whether or not we believe that these events are imminent is irrelevant. The point of prophecy is not primarily to predict the future, but so that we may prepare our hearts to meet our Lord at any time, be it the final hour of our earthly life or the final hour of earthly life as we know it. But until that hour arrives, we have a mission, and as penitents we must know that our mission involves a cross.

We penitents are called to walk the way of the cross daily. But we do have an advantage even over the apostles - we are children of Pentecost! As such we must walk with joyful hope, no matter the circumstances. We have heavenly help; our Lord will not leave us orphaned. The Blessed Mother will never abandon us on the way of the cross. The Saints and Angels will pray for us and guide us. With their help, our joy and hope even in adversity can be a sign to the world that Jesus lives!

So, as St. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:15-17:

"Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil."
At some point in our mission we will meet people on the road to Emmaus, people who will not understand the events portrayed in the Gospels, but whose hearts will burn to know more. Let us prepare ourselves ahead of time, through penance, prayer and study, to open the scriptures to those God sends us, so that they too may "recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread". Let us be ready to share with others what we have been freely given, the great and glorious gift of faith.

He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Janet Klasson BSP - Canada

Paul Beery
NO GREATER LOVE:
by PAUL BEERY BSP - April 2008

"God created man in His Image, in the divine Image He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them saying: 'Be fertile and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.'" (Genesis 1, 28)


We enter the wonderful season of Easter, with signs of new life supposedly springing up from the dead earth, but Mother Nature doesn't seem quite ready yet. Perhaps it's because Easter was so early this year, and in Minnesota we have shared in a record cold winter which doesn't seem over yet. But we know Jesus has risen, Alleluia is our song, and peace is His blessing.

Peace: frequently a very elusive concept. Everyone wants it, but very few have it, the peace only Jesus can give. His Vicar, Pope Benedict XVI, has laid out God's Peace Plan in his World Day of Peace message: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace." Continuing from last month, we come to "The family, the human community and the environment."

"The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-ŕ-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man.

Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves."

The environment is getting a lot of attention today, but it's not the right kind of attention. The Environmental Movement as a whole, and most of its constituent parts, is not family friendly. It is not even humanity friendly. It would appear from the official statements and positions taken by leaders and most members of the Environmental Movement, that mankind is not part of Nature, but the Enemy of Nature. Human beings are not of "supreme worth vis-ŕ-vis creation as a whole." We just muck up the works with our pollution and destruction of the environment through a whole litany of sins with which we are all too familiar. In the Environmental Gospel, God is Mother Earth, wildlife is of supreme worth, most of mankind is Evil, while true-believers fulfill the role of Savior. In their critical work of saving the world, environmentalists brook no opposition. Anyone with a contrary opinion is labeled as intolerant, or bigoted, if not outright evil. Christians especially fit the bill, for they obviously have a different worldview and a very different Savior. And their Sacred Scripture: giving man dominion over the earth to master it? That just doesn't fit the environmentalists' vision of the world and their own role in saving it.

The Environmental Movement is profoundly alienated from the Creator, and thus cannot properly protect His Creation, much less the pinnacle of Creation, the human species. But mankind is not the problem; alienation from God is. While many individuals in the Movement are good people doing good work, the Environmental Movement as a whole has been politicized and taken over by Secular leftist activists, as has so much of the Western world. They have a very different agenda than do the People of God. Thus, good-hearted people in the Movement are being USED for political and ideological purposes in direct opposition to the purpose and Will of their Creator. How does one cooperate with a group at such cross purposes to his/her own Christian faith? Every day we choose how to direct our efforts to remain in union with the love and will of God. We have a limited time on this earth to fulfill God's plan for our life, to become saints. Choosing to join a false religion with a false god seeking to corrupt the redemptive work of Jesus Christ is not the best way to go about it.

This needs to be clearly stated because the allure of the Environmental Movement is very strong for Franciscans, for obvious reasons. Some of us wouldn't touch this Movement with a ten-foot pole, yet it is embraced by many with the same fervor as Saints embrace the cross of Jesus Christ. St. Francis has left no doubt where his loyalty lies. We have merely to examine his Canticle of the Creatures, which is cited earlier in this letter.

Jesus tells us that we cannot serve two masters. We will hate the one and love the other. The goals of these two masters: Jesus and the world, are completely opposite, and contradict one another, as well as the means of achieving them. St. Francis and all disciples of Jesus Christ worship the Creator alone, not His creation. Creation is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We see God's creation as a means of honoring, praising and blessing the Creator. "To You be praise through all that You have done – Through creatures all, and first through Brother Sun!" All of creation praises God, in a rightly ordered universe.

But in a perversely ordered universe, God and His followers are cursed. Mankind is a blight to be done away with. In Part II we will witness how the Environmental Movement treats the "Supreme worth of creation." This new Religion has its own set of doctrines and dogmas, which are being implemented by government mandate despite "Separation of Church and State." The goal of this Movement has allegedly been the enhancement of life on earth: but whose life, and at what cost? Pope Benedict at Regensburg addressed the twin dangers of Islamic extremism, as well as Secular extremism. The fanatically Secular Environmental Movement is a great danger to our faith. Just ask Europe. To really enhance our life on earth, we need to behave like the Images of the Divine that we are, and pray with St. Francis:

"O Lord, Most High, omnipotent and good! We honor, praise, and bless you as we should. For You alone can all our service claim; And none is worthy to pronounce your Name."
Lord Jesus, we trust in You!

Paul Beery BSP
Minnesota

THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS

XVI. The clean 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.

From: Joe Stefan BSP

A perfect friar would have "the patience of Brother Juniper, who attained the state of perfect patience because he kept the truth of his low estate constantly in mind, whose supreme desire was to follow Christ on the way of the cross...."

Saint Francis of Assisi


St Thomas
St Thomas putting his finger in Christ's side
Author Michelangelo Merisi, Caravaggio, Italian painter

painted in 1601, now in Potsdam (Germany), Neues Palais


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 postmaster@bspenance.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!

Website: www.bspenance.org
Email: postmaster@bspenance.org

"His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him."
(Lk. 1:50)

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