LETTER TO ALL THE FAITHFUL
Source: Omnibus of Sources - written by St. Francis himself
The Letter to All the Faithful has generally been held to have been written in the year 1215. St. Francis wrote it as he began to reach out to everyone in the whole world with his message of the need for personal conversion. It is rich in its message and in its simplicity. It clearly held something for everyone, and like the First Rule of the Third Order of 1221 it was clearly penitential in tone, though not as explicit in its prescriptions. It has often been referred to as the "First Rule" to the faithful from St. Francis, and that the actual First Rule (Memoriale Propositi) was intended to be the "Constitutions" of the Letter. This makes the Rule of 1221, the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis all the more beautiful, as it the fruit of the Letter to all the Faithful in the heart of St. Francis. Whatever the intention of St. Francis, welcome to his Letter to all the Faithful!
TO ALL CHRISTIANS, religious, clerics and lay folk, men and women; to everyone in the whole world, Brother Francis, their servant and subject, sends his humble respects, imploring for them true peace from heaven and sincere love of God.
I am the servant of all and so I am bound to wait upon everyone and make known to them the fragrant words of my Lord. Realizing, however, that because of my sickness and ill-health I cannot personally visit each one individually, I decided to send you a letter bringing a message with the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit, whose words are spirit and life (Jn 6: 64).
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious Word of the Father, so holy and exalted, whose coming the Father made known by St. Gabriel the Archangel to the glorious and blessed Virgin Mary, in whose womb he took on our weak human nature. He was rich beyond measure and yet he and his holy Mother chose poverty.
Then, as his passion drew near, he celebrated the Pasch with his disciples and, taking bread, he blessed and broke, and gave to his disciples, and said, Take and eat; this is my body. And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, This is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins (Mt. 26: 26-29). And he prayed to his Father, too, saying, Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me (Mt. 26: 39); and it was the Father's will that his blessed and glorious Son, whom he gave to us and who was born for our sake, should offer himself by his own blood as a sacrifice and victim on the altar of the cross; and this, not for himself, through whom all things were made (Jn 1: 3), but for our sins, leaving us an example that we may follow in his steps ( 1Pet. 2: 21). It is the Father's will that we should all be saved by the Son, and that we should receive him, or want to be saved by him, although his yoke is easy, and his burden light (Mt. 11: 30).
All those who refuse to taste and see how good the Lord is (Ps. 33: 9) and who love the darkness rather than the light (Jn. 3: 19) are under a curse. It is God's commandments they refuse to obey and so it is of them the Prophet says, You rebuke the accursed proud who turn away from your commands (Ps. 118: 21). On the other hand, those who love God are happy and blessed. They do as our Lord himself tells us in the Gospel, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul...and thy neighbour as thyself (Mt. 22: 37-39). We must love God, then, and adore him with a pure heart and mind, because this is what he seeks above all else, as he tells us, True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth (Jn. 4: 23). All who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4: 24). We should praise him and pray to him day and night, saying, Our Father, who art in heaven (Mt. 6: 9), because we must always pray and not lose heart (Lk. 18: 1).
And moreover, we should confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The man who does not eat his flesh and drink his blood cannot enter the kingdom of God (cf. Jn 6: 54). Only he must eat and drink worthily because he who eats and drinks unworthily, without distinguishing the body, eats and drinks judgment to himself (1 Cor. 11:29); that is, if he sees no difference between it and other food.
Besides this, we must bring forth therefore fruits befitting repentance (Lk. 3: 8) and love our neighbours as ourselves. Anyone who will not or cannot love his neighbour as himself should at least do him good and not do him any harm.
Those who have been entrusted with the power of judging others should pass judgment mercifully, just as they themselves hope to obtain mercy from God. For judgment without mercy to him who has not shown mercy (Jn. 2: 13). We must be charitable, too, and humble, and give alms, because they wash the stains of sin from our souls. We lose everything which we leave behind in this world; we can bring with us only the right to a reward for our charity and the alms we have given. For these we shall receive a reward, a just retribution from God. We are also bound to fast and avoid vice and sin, taking care not to give way to excess in food and drink, and we must be Catholics.
We should visit churches often and show great respect for the clergy, not just for them personally, for they may be sinners, but because of their high office, for it is they who administer the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. They offer It in sacrifice at the altar, and it is they who receive It and administer It to others. We should realize, too, that no one can be saved except by the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy words of God, and it is the clergy who tell us his words and administer the Blessed Sacrament, and they alone have a right to do it, and no one else.
Religious especially are bound to make greater efforts, without neglecting the duties of ordinary Christians, because they have left the world.
Our lower nature, the source of so much vice and sin, should be hateful to us. Our Lord says in the Gospel, it is from the heart of man that all vice and sin comes (cf. Mt. 15: 18-19), and he tells us, Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you (Lk. 6: 27).
We are bound to order our lives according to the precepts and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so we must renounce self and bring our lower nature into subjection under the yoke of obedience; this is what we have all promised God. However, no one can be bound to obey another in anything that is sinful or criminal.
The man who is in authority and is regarded as the superior should become the least of all and serve his brothers, and he should be as sympathetic with each one of them as he would wish others to be with him if he were in a similar position. If one of his brothers falls into sin, he should not be angry with him; on the contrary, he should correct him gently, with all patience and humility, and encourage him.
It is not for us to be wise and calculating in the world's fashion; we should be guileless, lowly, and pure. We should hold our lower nature in contempt, as a source of shame to us, because through our own fault we are wretched and utterly corrupt, nothing more than worms, as our Lord tells us by the Prophet, I am a worm; the scorn of men, despised by the people (Ps. 21: 7). We should not want to be in charge of others; we are to be servants, and should be subject to every human creature for God's sake (1Pet. 2: 13).
On all those who do this and endure to the last the Spirit of God will rest (cf. Is. 11: 2); he will make his dwelling in them and there he will stay, and they will be children of your Father in heaven (Mt. 5: 45) whose work they do. It is they who are the brides, the brothers and the mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. A person is his bride when his faithful soul is united with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit; we are his brothers when we do the will of his Father who is in heaven (cf. Mt. 12: 50), and we are mothers to him when we enthrone him in our hearts and souls by love with a pure and sincere conscience, and give him birth by doing good. This, too, should be an example to others.
How glorious, how holy and wonderful it is to have a Father in heaven. How holy it is, how beautiful and lovable to have in heaven a Bridegroom. How holy and beloved, how pleasing and lowly, how peaceful, delightful, lovable and desirable above all things it is to have a Brother like this, who laid down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn. 10: 15), and prayed to his Father for us, saying: Holy Father, in your name keep those whom you have given me. Father, all those whom you gave me in the world, were yours and you gave them to me. And the words you have given me, I have given to them. And they have received them and have known truly that I have come forth from you, and they have believed that you have sent me. I am praying for them, not for the world: Bless and sanctify them. And for them I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified in their unity, just as we are. And, Father, I wish that where I am, they also may be with me, that they may see my splendor in your kingdom (cf. Jn 17: 6-24).
Every creature in heaven and on earth and in the depths of the sea should give God praise and glory and honour and blessing (cf. Ap. 5: 13); he has borne so much for us and has done and will do so much good to us; he is our power and our strength, and he alone is good (cf. Lk. 18:19), he alone most high, he alone all-powerful, wonderful, and glorious; he alone is holy and worthy of all praise and blessing for endless ages and ages. Amen.
All those who refuse to do penance and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are blind, because they cannot see the light, our Lord Jesus Christ. They indulge their vices and sins and follow their evil longings and desires, without a thought for the promises they made. In body they are slaves of the world and of the desires of their lower nature, with all the cares and anxieties of this life; in spirit they are slaves of the devil. They have been led astray by him and have made themselves his children, dedicated to doing his work. They lack spiritual insight because the Son of God does not dwell in them, and it is he who is the true wisdom of the Father. It is of such men as these that Scripture says, their skill was swallowed up (Ps. 106: 27). They can see clearly and are well aware what they are doing; they are fully conscious of the fact that they are doing evil, and knowingly lose their souls.
See, then you who are blind, deceived by your enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, our fallen nature loves to commit sin and hates to serve God; this is because vice and sin come from the heart of man, as the Gospel says. You have no good in this world and nothing to look forward to in the next. You imagine that you will enjoy the worthless pleasures of this life indefinitely, but you are wrong. The day and the hour will come, the day and the hour for which you have no thought and of which you have no knowledge whatever. First sickness, then death, draws near; friends and relatives come and advise the dying man, "Put your affairs in order". Wife and children, friends and relatives, all pretend to mourn. Looking about, he sees them weeping. An evil inspiration comes to him. Thinking to himself, he says, "Look, I am putting my body and soul and all that I have in your hands". Certainly a man who would do a thing like that is under a curse, trusting and leaving his body and his soul and all that he has defenseless in such hands. God tells us by his Prophet, Cursed shall he be that puts his trust in man (Jer. 17:5). There and then, they call a priest; he says to the sick man, "Do you want to be absolved from all your sins?"
And the dying man replies, "I do". "Are you ready then to make restitution as best you can out of your property for all that you have done, all the fraud and deceit you practiced towards your fellow men?" the priest asks him. "No", he replies. And the priest asks, "Why not?" "Because I have left everything in the hands of my relatives and friends", is the answer. Then his speech begins to fail and so the unfortunate man dies an unhappy death.
We should all realize that no matter where or how a man dies, if he is in the state of mortal sin and does not repent, when he could have done so and did not, the devil tears his soul from his body with such anguish and distress that only a person who has experienced it can appreciate it. All the talent and ability, all the learning and wisdom which he thought his own, are taken away from him, while his relatives and friends bear off his property and share it among themselves. Then they say, "A curse on his soul; he could have made more to leave to us and he did not." And the worms feast on his body. So he loses both body and soul in this short life and goes to hell, where he will be tormented without end. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In that love which is God (cf. 1 Jn. 4: 16), I, Brother Francis, the least of your servants and worthy only to kiss your feet, beg and implore all to whom this letter comes to hear these words of our Lord Jesus Christ in a spirit of humility and love, putting them into practice with all gentleness and observing them perfectly. Those who cannot read should have them read to them often and keep them ever before their eyes, by persevering in doing good to the last, because they are spirit and life (Jn. 6:64). Those who fail to do this shall be held to account for it before the judgment-seat of Christ at the last day.
And may God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless those who welcome them and grasp them and send copies to others, if they persevere in them to the last (cf. Mt. 10:22).
Since it is commonly held that the Letter to all the Faithful was written before the First Rule of the Third Order, Memoriale Propositi, which is the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis, then St. Francis must have intended that those who wished to lead a committed life of penance should do more than the letter prescribes. The Rule of the BSP, and its supporting and defining Statutes, puts into writing these admonitions in concrete form. Consideration of these documents verifies the mind of St. Francis himself. It would not be sufficient for the brothers and sisters of penance to have the Letter to All the Faithful read to them. They were to put it into effect in their lives according to the specifics of that original Rule of Life, Memoriale Propositi, the Rule of 1221, now the Rule of the BSP.
"It is an earnest appeal to all the faithful to sanctify themselves by prayer, by the use of the sacraments, by mortification, and by the practice of justice, charity, and humility; to show respect for the Blessed Eucharist; and to live the Catholic life in all its fullness. It is especially noteworthy for its graphic description of the last moments of an impenitent possessor of ill-gotten goods." Franciscan Omnibus of Sources
With these thoughts in mind, the Letter to All the Faithful carries in it the seeds of the First Rule of all of the Orders that St. Francis established. From its rich message souls would rise and taste and see how good the Lord is (Ps. 33: 9) and gain the courage to make the deeper commitment of embracing a penitential Rule of Life as their way to follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Letter to all the Faithful was a starting point, not an ending, for the conversion of the masses.
Hence, this general commitment to living the Gospel all Christians should embrace. The Rule of 1221, being a specific lifestyle within that call, a "call within a call" as it were, is a commitment that many can make that takes one beyond the Letter. The contents of the Letter to All the Faithful are fulfilled in a dramatic and definite way by living the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 in the modern Association of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. Blessed are those who feel called to do that! These admonitions, or perhaps it is more accurate to say, prescriptions, of the Letter to All the Faithful are very straightforward and simple and can be summarized nicely as follows.
• ...bring with us only a right to a reward for our charity and the alms we have given...
• ...receive him with a pure heart and chaste body...
• ...praise him and pray to him day and night saying Our Father, who art in heaven (Matt.6:9)...
• ...confess all our sins to a priest and receive from him the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ...
• ...pass judgment mercifully...
• ...visit churches often...
• ...show great reverence for the clergy...
• ...realize...that no one can be saved except by the Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ and by the holy words of God...
• ...become the least of all and serve our brothers...
• ...be as sympathetic with others...as we wish others to be with us...
• ...not be angry with others...
• ...be guileless, lowly, and pure...
• ...hold our lower nature in contempt, as a source of shame to us...
• ...not want to be in charge of others...
• ...be servants...
• ...be subject to every human creature for God's sake (1 Pet.2: 13)
• ...be an example to others...
• ...love God, then, and adore him with a pure heart and mind...
• ...bring forth therefore fruits befitting repentance (Lk. 3: 8)...
• ...love our neighbors as ourselves...
• ...be charitable, too, and humble...
• ...give alms...
• ...renounce self and bring our lower nature into subjection under the yoke of obedience...
WE ARE BOUND:
• ...to fast...
• ...to avoid vice and sin...
• ...to order our lives according to the precepts and counsels of our Lord Jesus Christ... Religious especially are bound to make greater efforts, without neglecting the duties of ordinary Christians, because they have left the world...
WE MUST TAKE CARE:
• ...not to give way to excess in food and drink...
Such are the admonitions and holy prescriptions of the Letter to all the Faithful, and all of them are incorporated in the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis, as he himself had the Rule of 1221, our Rule, prepared for the laity to live. In living the Rule of the BSP we fulfill the demands of the Letter. And, St. Francis himself says of this, in the Letter to All the Faithful:
"And may God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless those who welcome them and grasp them, and send copies to others, if they persevere in them to the last".
(Commentary by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP…Administrators of the BSP - 1990)
Homily by Fr. Robert Altier - BSP Visitor
Father Altier celebrated Mass for us at the retreat. He spoke to us about the miracle Jesus performed for the people on the shores of the sea of Galilee. How he multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed 5000 men (excluding women and children) and there was 12 baskets of fragments left although they started with five loaves and a couple of dried fish. A tremendous miracle. The people were going to come and make Him King so he fled into the mountains, alone, as he did not want them make him King and they did not want to make Him King because they loved Him. They wanted to make Him king because he had just worked a great miracle, and fed them, and they would love to have a king who could provide food for them and their families forever. It was a selfish perspective that lead them to want to make Jesus their king, and Jesus wanted no part of that.
Jesus is our King. He is our Lord. There is no other, and there is no salvation for us except in Christ the King. Either we accept Christ as our King, or we do not. We accept Him as our Lord, or we do not. Everyone in the world will make this decision at one point or another except those who don't hear about Him, but most people in the world today have heard of Jesus Christ.
This decision is final and binding. People who hear of Christ or have known of Him will decide to change their lives or not. This decision will be the basis of their final judgment when they meet the Lord.
The problem these days is that people don't want Christ as their king. They make a king out of everything else. They focus on family, or hobbies, or TV, or having fun with friends. This world will always pull you away from Christ. It will always point out to you what should be the king of your life. We all need to be aware of that. The world is not going to promote Jesus Christ as King. Money, power, sex, having a good time, living a fast active busy life in pursuit of worldly joys and pleasures; these are the ‘kings'. That is what the world is going to promote.
As Christians we need to promote Jesus Christ as King of our lives. We need to make Him first. We need to act as if He is first. We need to strive to live virtuous holy lives because He is our King. We need to believe in Him, and witness to Him, at every opportunity.
If something is primary in your life it is always on your mind. If you love someone you love them all the time. You don't forget them. You remember them whatever you are doing even when you cannot be with them. We need to do this too. To be always thinking of Jesus. To make time for Him in our lives. Always remembering He is our King and Lord. Always looking for ways to be close to Him; to serve Him. One of those ways is through prayer.
We need to pray always. This is the prayer of desire. Desire to be with Christ. Desire to have Him as our King. This desire becomes our prayer.
And, we need to lead active lives in our families and our Church in support of our beliefs in Jesus. To show others He is our King and Lord. We cannot run from this. It should be as natural to us as breathing. Jesus is first in our lives. We need to let others know that He is our King and our Lord. Gently, but firmly, whenever the opportunity presents itself. If we don't do that. If we come to Jesus like the people he fed in the miracle of the loaves and fishes. If we do that He will go to the mountain and leave us standing alone. We must go to Jesus to adore Him; to worship Him as our God; to serve Him in the moments and motions of our lives; to give Him our all. Then He will be our King. Then He will guide us as Lord. Then He will never abandon us.
(Brief highlights of his homily at Mass for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time at the retreat.)
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - August 2009
"And after He had dismissed the crowds, Jesus went up on the mountain by Himself to
." (Mt. 14, 23)
We too went up on a mountain at our annual retreat. Well, maybe it was more like a hill,
but it was still a great time to pray, to be alone with God. There is much I would like to share,
about the retreat, and a closely related subject. Prior Lake Franciscan Retreat Center is a great setting for a retreat. The weather was perfect, as Mother Nature cooperated beautifully. The only thing missing was our retreat master; that was a mixed blessing.
We missed the full-time presence of a priest, Fr. Tony. Yet no one went home. Instead, we experienced a real sense of community. Many of us come every year to the BSP retreat, and it's a treat to see our good friends again, all of us being of one mind and heart in the Lord. This too is important, as our holy father Francis reminds us, in the tradition of the annual Franciscan Chapter meetings when the Friars would all get together. I would love to see this tradition continue, with dedicated BSP members and others of like mind coming together to give glory to God every year at our retreat. Many of us see each other more frequently, but meeting even once a year to worship the Lord and share our faith is such a blessing. It's hard to say we really know someone well if we don't visit with them once in a while. And it's a great blessing to see those we are united with in living the Rule of St. Francis, and others of like mind who seek to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the fullest.
In his talk on the Rule, Bruce brought up an interesting point. He said we all follow a rule of life. If one doesn't follow a Rule as instituted by a holy person and approved by the Church, then one will MAKE UP ONE OF HIS OWN! Think about it. Many of the things we do are repetitive, done at the same time, in the same fashion, every day. We have our rituals. We "make" rules if there are none to guide us in some particular area, or else there would be chaos. It is a blessing to be "organized," a blessing that eludes some of us. Just think how many "rules" that takes! Put this here, put that there, everything in its place. What time to get up, brush teeth, do the dishes, go to the store, personal behavior issues?
On an infinitely more important level, when is our prayer time? When do we worship God in public, receive the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus, make a visit, go about doing good like Jesus via the spiritual/corporal works of mercy? We are so fortunate to have a Rule of life set forth by one of the greatest Saints that ever lived, St. Francis of Assisi. The Rule of 1221 guarantees there will be plenty of time devoted to THE ONE THING NECESSARY. Mary has chosen the better part. If we are faithful, it will not be taken from us. The retreat gave us organized times for prayer; an opportunity to experience the Divine Office, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Times of silence were balanced by inspirational talks, and recreation at mealtimes. The retreat had a different routine, or set of rules than we are accustomed to. We had more prayer time and less activity, the opposite of the way most of us live.
But the highlight of any retreat, of any gathering of committed Catholics, remains the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. In the Rule, Francis would have us "assist at Divine Services," meaning the Mass and sermon, Divine Office and prayer. Fr. Altier came to our rescue, and Saturday evening we had a beautiful liturgy. In his homily, Father talked about the Scripture reading where Jesus fed five thousand people, and they promptly wanted to make Him their king. But of course they misunderstood, and wanted a "bread king." Instead Jesus is the Living Bread come down from heaven, to institute a Divine Kingship. We are to live a life WORTHY OF OUR CALLING, our incorporation into Jesus Christ. We have to follow Him by living in perfect humility and meekness, united with His other disciples. We willingly accept the Cross and follow Jesus Crucified. Not a cross of our own making, but one fashioned by the Will of God. Fr. Altier is very convincing, for it is evident he practices what he preaches, which is divine wisdom.
In the Catholic Church, nothing takes the place of a dedicated priest. St. Francis shows his respect for priests in the following story.
"The pastor of a parish was causing scandal by living with a woman. A man ran and said to St. Francis: ‘Tell me, if a priest maintains a concubine and thereby stains his hands, must we believe in his teaching and respect the sacraments he administers?' (Source: Stephen of Bourbon, Dominican, 13th century)
The priesthood is one of the links between the Old and New Testaments. The concept of sacrifice to God goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, and the offerings of Cain and Abel. The Levitical priesthood was established early on, for the purpose of offering innumerable animal sacrifices to God. The Book of Exodus tells the story of the Paschal lamb, becoming fulfilled in Jesus, the Lamb of God. In the New Covenant, Jesus is both High Priest and Victim, the Supreme Sacrifice for the salvation of the world. "They recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread." This re-presentation by a priest continues for the benefit of mankind two thousand years later. "As often as you do this, do it in memory of Me."
The saint avoided the trap. In the presence of all the parishioners he went to the priest's house, knelt down before him and said: ‘I do not really know whether these hands are stained as the other man claims they are. In any case, I DO KNOW that even if they are, this in no way lessens the efficacy of the sacraments of God; those hands remain the channel whereby God's graces and blessings stream down on the people. That is why I kiss them out of respect for what they administer and out of respect for Him who delegated His authority to them.'
Francis prostrated himself before the priest, kissed his hands to the great embarrassment of the heretics and their sympathizers who were present."
Francis willed that we celebrate the Holy Mass as an integral part of community life. How else could we be so united with Jesus and the members of His Body after we have all eaten of the Paschal Lamb? After COMMUNION the Bread of Life is within us. Such intimacy surpasses that between man and wife, of whom "the two shall become one flesh." Who would have thought that God Himself would wish to be so close to us that He created a way of being present that is inconceivable to the human mind? Who could have contemplated the union which Jesus taught in Chapter 6 of John's Gospel? Jesus wishes to be not only WITH us, but IN us. And that's only possible through the mediation of a priest.
On the feast of St. Ignatius the celebrant at Mass which we attended gave a homily in which he thanked a Jesuit priest for the conversion of his entire family. The priest ministered to his great-grandmother on her deathbed in the absence of a Lutheran minister. Her daughter was so impressed she converted to the Catholic faith. Two generations later, he, Father Baer, recalled this event, and the effect the simple actions of a priest had on his family, a family which has ultimately produced a holy priest.
Pope Benedict XVI has shown great wisdom in instituting a special year for Priests, with St. John Vianney being their model. It begins August 4, on which day a plenary indulgence can be gained. We need to pray for our priests, who are such an integral part of God's Plan for our salvation. Following is the prayer of Mother Teresa, which the Missionaries of Charity will say each day:
"Mary, Mother of Jesus, throw your mantle of purity over our priests. Amen.
Protect them, guide them and keep them in your heart.
Be a Mother to them especially in times of discouragement and loneliness.
Love them and keep them belonging completely to Jesus.
Like Jesus, they too are your sons, so keep their hearts pure and virginal.
Keep their minds filled with Jesus, and put Jesus always on their lips, so that He is the one they offer to sinners and to all they meet.
Mary, Mother of Jesus, be their Mother, loving them and bringing them joy.
Take special care of sick and dying priests and the ones most tempted.
Remember how they spent their youth and old age, their entire lives serving and giving all to Jesus.
Mary, bless them and keep a special place for them in your heart.
Give them a piece of your heart, so beautiful and pure and immaculate, so full of love and humility so that they, too, can grow in the likeness of Christ.
Dear Mary, make them humble like you and holy like Jesus."
Paul Beery BSP - Morning Star Chapter - Minnesota
Soaring with God by Lisa Drago BSP
A friend of mine is a pilot. He recently took me for my first ever glider ride at a small glider port with a grass strip out in the country. This was something I had wanted to do for a while, especially during the years that I lived in Hawaii, but the opportunity never arose.
Since a glider has no engines of its own, it is attached to a rope and pulled up into the sky by a small tow plane. Then, at 3000 feet, the glider pilot pulls a lever to release the tow plane. To my surprise, my friend put me in the front seat. He sat behind me and controlled everything dealing with take-off, flight, and landing. But since I was in the front seat, it was my job to release the tow plane. This was quite effortless, even fun for me -- not scary at all.
Gliding along was very peaceful. I enjoyed the views of the countryside and the glider port down below. At one point, my friend tapped me on the back and informed me that I was flying the glider; he wasn't doing anything. This was a shock to me because I didn't think I was doing anything. Later, he asked, "What's our altitude?" I immediately responded, "2000 feet." He chuckled in a way that seemed to say, "See how quickly you catch on?"
At home, as I pondered what I had experienced in the glider, I realized that the Lord had given me several important messages for my spiritual life. First, just as I effortlessly released the tow plane, I need to release the various attachments in my life. My major attachment at this point is to my spiritual director. In a way, he is my "tow plane." I count on him to help me ascend toward God. But now I see that I am safe; it is okay to let go and put my trust completely in God. It's fun! Life is an adventure!
Second, my pilot is the Holy Spirit. Although I cannot see Him, I am never alone. He gives me the courage to fly with confidence. Whether or not I have a sense that I am controlling the course of my life, He is the One who is ultimately guiding everything. He is flying and He will bring me home safely.
Finally, I understood that God is pleased with the progress I have been making in my spiritual life: He is smiling at me -- even chuckling --because He is proud to see me "catching on." This is an important message for me because I tend to focus too much on my mistakes or on how far I still have to go.
This experience has given me much peace and consolation. The timing is perfect, too, because my spiritual director is out of town for three weeks. I am not afraid because I KNOW I am not alone -- I am soaring with God.
Lisa M. Drago, BSP
MORNING STAR: NEWS ON THE ASSOCIATION
RETREAT 2009 - THE PROFESSION OF ROBIN GORTON BSP
Left to right: Shelley and Bruce Fahey, Robin Gorton, the Lord, and Deacon James Thorton at the profession of Robin Gorton.
Robin Gorton, of Muskogee, Oklahoma, made her profession to live the Rule of 1221, Memoriale Propositi, which is the Rule of the BSP at the retreat to the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration. Robin is the 30th person to make this profession.
May the Lord bless and lead Robin in all of her life.
Father Altier blesses Robin Gorton on the occasion of her profession.
Left to right: Robin Gorton BSP, Dorothy Winczewski BSP, Rebecca Maness BSP, Chuck Hernandez SFO, and Ted Welter BSP
ROBIN'S REFLECTIONS ON THE RETREAT AND HER PROFESSION:
I feel called to share the impact the retreat has made on me. I find it difficult to put into words, but will try. Many things have impacted my faith journey, but nothing as humbling and exhilarating at the same time as this retreat. Many things come to mind- the beauty of fellowship, that all there were desiring a closer relationship to our Lord in the example of St Francis. As someone who tends to feel uncomfortable in social settings, i found this retreat different, a sense of peace permeated me. The doubts and questions I had deep within were calmed and i saw our Lord clearly leading me. Both by time in the late nite with our Lord in adoration, and the ministering from others sharing, though they may not have known their annointing of the Lord. Some of the areas addressed for me were the understanding finally of the LOTH, and the necessity of making time regularly to spend with the Lord.
The reality that at times we may feel our faith is of no consequence to others, we are a light to others we may never be aware of. That no matter how others live their faith walk, we need to keep our thoughts, eyes and heart on our Lord and His leading through the Church. Our example is St Francis, who applied the gospel in very real ways. Also, we need to be flexible, we may have all our plans laid out, but be willing to listen to the Lords leading, he may have a different direction for you. An example being the change of the focus of this retreat.
For me to profess during adoration, at the altar was incredibly deep and meaningful- to remind me my profession is to our Lord - directly even though it was the first time this was done in this manner- I needed that and the Lord tailored it for me. A sense that we live in critical times, the Lord will anoint us to walk faithfully as St Francis did. I also received a deep assurance that our Catholic faith is the one true faith, and the need to pray for those struggling in their faith. It was also impressed on me to pray for those in purgatory- for if we don't pray for them, who will? The need to focus our eyes on the good the Lord does, rather than pondering on the negative, turn your thoughts to the positives.
ON THE TALKS:
Due to a conflict in communications Father Tony was unable to come to the retreat this year. He will be our Retreat Master next year on the same theme: Becoming Instruments of Peace using the Peace Prayer of St. Francis and its inherent messages.
So, we contacted Father Altier, our Visitor, and he came and celebrated Mass for us and gave us a wonderful homily on keeping Christ as our King that is briefly summarized in his message in this issue of the newsletter. Three other talks were given by members of the BSP and the Secular Franciscan Order, and each had a special message and were well received. They are briefly summarized below. We had a wonderful retreat. The Holy Spirit was with us.
FIRST TALK: Janet Klassen: Cling to Hope with Joy
Janet Klasson shared with the group parts of her faith journey and the events that led up to the publication this year of her book, Cling to Hope with Joy.
A cradle Catholic, Janet found there were periods of waxing and waning in her faith journey. Two events stood out as defining moments on the path. One was the death of her oldest son, Benjamin, in 1985. Looking back Janet could see that the Lord was preparing her ahead of time for the cross she would be asked to carry. In the two years that preceded her son's death, she experienced a strong call to grow closer to the Lord, and began praying the rosary every day. This turned out to be an incalculable blessing as she felt carried through her time of deep grief, for even while grieving deeply, she experienced joy and consolation in the nearness of God. This experience of joy was independent of her situation and her natural feelings, but was the result of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Even so, as the pattern of life resumed, the waxing and waning also resumed. Then, in 1997, Janet had an even deeper experience of the Lord's nearness. After reading a book called He and I by Gabrielle Bossis, she began to be aware of the "still small voice" of the Spirit speaking to her heart. That Advent she felt called to spend time in adoration. It was during this time that her heart was infused with joy as the love of the Lord poured into her. She began to keep a prayer journal recording the words of love and encouragement the Lord was speaking to her heart, and she felt called to immerse herself in Scripture. Janet always felt that the words she was recording were not meant for her alone, so in 2003, she started an Internet mail out, which later became the Pelianito Journal blog, excerpts of which are contained in her book.
In her talk, Janet shared other experiences demonstrating that joy does not depend on earthly circumstances, but comes from the abiding presence of God in one's heart. This knowledge of God and the joy it brings, enables us to cling to hope. Once, Janet had a vision at prayer in which she was in a turbulent sea, clinging to a rock. She felt that the rock was hope, and that joy was the "glue" that enabled her to cling to the rock.
Janet then read excerpts from her book, taken from the chapter called "Cling to Hope with Joy". One of the excerpts follows:
Psalm 62: 6 My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.
"Sweet child, let your desire for me fill you with hope, for my ways are the ways of hope. Without me all is darkness. Without me, life is an abyss of despair. Long for me day and night, and hope will be your constant companion. Let all you do resound with hope in the Lord, the Giver of Life, Beloved One of your heart. Hope exists. It is a gift I wish to give all my children. Today, now, there is a great need for this message in the world. Offer hope like a balm on the gaping, festering wound of hopelessness. Speak my name. Give them hope in me. Only then will they see their false gods for what they are—providers of hopelessness. Shams. Counterfeits. Let the light of my Truth shine forth."
Father, Beloved Hope of All People, use me as you wish to accomplish your designs upon the world. I consecrate myself to you O Lord. Remove all obstacles in my path, both external and internal. Make my way clear and give me the strength and grace I need to follow you where you would have me go. I ask these prayers in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Master. Amen.
For more on Janet's faith journey and to obtain a collection of selected messages of hope and joy, you may purchase a copy of her book, Cling to Hope with Joy. Ordering information may be found at www.goldleafword.com . You may also visit the Pelianito Journal Blog at www.pelianito.stblogs.com .
SECOND TALK: Jerry Giebel SFO: Testimony to Hope and Joy
I gave a talk Saturday and tried to focus on Hope and Joy. As I developed my topic, it became clear that I was addressing how God brought me to an inner life as a path to Hope and Joy. This inner life or spiritual maturity opens Hope and Joy in community, family, finances, politics and religion. So much for separation of Church and State.
My journey began with every blessing known to a child. Catholic parents who loved me and provided Mass, CCD, Sacraments, fellowships, Bible studies, charismatic renewals, retreats, and a Meadowlark Lemon (Harlem Globetrotters) conference. It was at this conference that I first gave my life to Christ and began an inner walk. Throughout High School and into College this walk was fervent but often intellectual and lacking in compassion for failure, in others and myself. As I moved further geographically from my family and friends the breadth and depth of spirituality they provided and covered was lost to me.
My wife helped cover and move me, but we were both growing into adulthood yet (even though we had been adults for years). When we stagnated for lack of community and formation God stepped in to provide a Franciscan friend to stay with us and give us a taste of where we were headed. The Father then crushed us financially, humbled our sense of personal importance, and left us with nothing but our faith and a need to trust in Him.
Finally, God provided us with a faith community (the SFO) to grow in, finances to alternately share and require, a rich and large family of our own, a deeper appreciation of the Catholic gift, and a healthier perspective on politics. These haven't all come at the same time, and some depart us as we seek ourselves instead of God, but at the moment we have every worldly blessing and every grace we're open to. Praise be to God, source of Hope and fount of lasting Joy. Praise be to His Son Jesus Christ for the gift of salvation, the only consolation we should seek. Praise be to the Holy Spirit for moving us to live a life that glorifies God so that all may see and desire to share in these spiritual gifts.
THIRD TALK: Bruce Fahey BSP: The Ritual of our lives
"Dance then, wherever you may be: I am the Lord of the dance said He; I'll lead you all, wherever you may be; I will lead you all in the dance said He." (Song: The Lord of the Dance)
We all dance through life, and this is the ritual of our life. We all have a Rule of life that guides that ritual, even if we say we don't. It is imperative that we realize this. Also, imperative that we take time to examine the ritual of our lives. If we put it in writing we might want to change it so we can be better servants of Jesus Christ. So he is more of the fabric of the ritual we celebrate, each day.
To do this brings us face to face with the question of whether or not we want to live for Christ. If we want to live for Christ we need to lead consecrated lives. Holy lives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be holy. Most the world could care less. Jesus said: "Be holy, as my Father is holy." Interesting. He did not say, be holy as I am holy. So dominant was the humility of the Lord that He gave the glory to His Father, although, most certainly, His life was holy; only holy. His life is the life we seek to lead. To do that we need to lead consecrated lives. We need to be certain that the ritual and rule of our lives, on a daily basis, are drawing us always closer to Christ.
In heaven we will be with Christ. We need to draws Him into our lives here. It is simple, but not so easy. WE cannot do it and not change the way we think and the way we do things. Jesus must be king in our lives. He must be central in our lives. We are all his servants; creatures of the Father but god of our lives. We create our lives. We create what we bring to God. We are therefore all responsible to be responsible in how we do that. How we put our lives together. How we live, day to day.
If we examine the ritual of our lives each day we will move towards Christ, if we want to do that and try to do that. If He is central in our lives we will work to create holy lives. We can do that through the Church and by studying the Gospels. The entire work of Jesus; all of the Gospel and its holy admonitions, need to be brought into focus in our lives and made part of them. Piece by piece. Bit by bit. And prayer is central to who we are and want to be. So is fasting. We must all fast from sin for sure to be disciples of Christ, and "Deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me."
The Letter to All the Faithful is the summary of how the ritual of our lives should take form given to us by St. Francis. His admonitions in that letter are specific. Whether or not we embrace, per se, the lifestyle of the First Rule, Memoriale Propositi, the rule of the BSP, is not important. What is important is that we internalize his message from his Letter and make Christ and His Gospel the focus of our life. That we dance the steps defined for us in the Gospel. Then we can be sure we are living it generously. Then we are dancing the dance that will take us to eternal life with God and we will dance into heaven when this life ends.
"Dance then, wherever you may be: I am the Lord of the dance said He; I'll lead you all, wherever you may be; I will lead you all in the dance said He." (Song: The Lord of the Dance)
"They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called, chosen, and faithful."
Retreat 2009, Group Shot
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
a.k.a. 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!