ON TRUE AND PERFECT JOY
Source: the Fioretti ("The Little Flowers of St. Francis") - Chapter 8.
[Friar Leonardo] related that one day blessed Francis who was near St. Mary's [of the Angels- the Portiuncula] called friar Leo and said: "Brother Leo, write." He responded: "Look, I'm ready."
"Write" he started "this is true joy.
A messenger comes and says that all the teachers of Paris have joined the Order; write - that is not true joy.
Then all the prelates beyond the mountains, and the archbishops and the bishops, even the King of France and the King of England: write - that is not true joy.
In fact, all my brothers have gone to those without faith and have converted all of them to the faith; and that I have such a grace from God that I can cure the sick and can do many miraculous things; I tell you that in all these things there is not true joy.
But what is true joy?
I upon returning from Perugia and in the dark of night arrive here and it is the bitter cold time of winter, all muddied, and therefore cold, and there are icicles on the edges of my habit and these cut into my legs and blood oozes out of such wounds.
And completely covered in mud I come to the door shivering from the cold and the ice.
And after I have knocked for awhile and I have called out, a brother comes and asks: 'Who is it?'
And I respond: 'Brother Francis'.
And he says: 'Go away; this is not the proper time for moving about! - Go away; you will not get in here.'
And again he answers to my insistence: 'Go away, you are just a simpleton and
uneducated and you are not coming with us; there are so many of us and we do not need you.'
And once again I stand at the door and I say: 'For the love of God take me in tonight.' And he responds: "I will not. Go away to the Croziers' place and beg there."
I tell you that if I have patience and am not disturbed, that would be real joy and true virtue and salvation for the soul.
ADMINISTRATOR'S MESSAGE: … GIFTS
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."
(Romans 12: 6-8)
We all benefit from considering this Scripture as it relates to us in our own lives. Taken literally there are no exclusions mentioned by St. Paul. He doesn't say that some of us don't have gifts. It is just that our gifts are different.
We need to identify our gifts and apply those gifts in trying to live a holy life for Christ. The whole idea of what St. Paul is sharing is that we need to use our personal gifts and best talents in the world around us. By sharing what we have to give, no matter what it is, so as to build up the Kingdom of God.
Life in the world to come depends on how we live our lives here. We all have work to do. One great aspect of that work is to use our gifts to help those around us. Within, and outside, our commitment to the Rule of 1221 that guides the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, which is, itself, a gift to the laity from St. Francis.
The fact is that we are all busy in our lives. We all have things to do in our family and in our work and our lives wherever we may be. It is essential to our happiness, wholeness, and spirituality that we are contributing persons. Our first concern is God, then family, friends, neighbors, and everything else.
There are lots of people in our lives that don't care about us, or what we do. We need to love them too, and reach out to them in the gentlest and most peaceful of ways, even in silence for if we don't know what else to do for others we can always pray for them. We will never know the power of our prayers in this life, but prayer is the language of heaven and every prayer comes before God who knows all things for all people.
So in our lives we should make an effort to identify our gifts and how we can use these gifts better in our lives.
We are struck by the words, in Romans, "…if it is leadership, let him govern diligently…:" for we have been called to be leaders in this Association. We do ask ourselves constantly what that means. Our work will go on until we die. When the Lord asked us to create this Association He did not give us details on the assignment, and certainly not a deadline to get it done. So, we need to be diligent, and faithful, to do this work, and it is impossible to tell you how much of a joy all the work is! The fruit of the work is growing! Praise God! Yet, it has been years and years, and will be hopefully many more. We need good leaders to help us. Please pray for us.
So, with all of us. We must be diligent, and faithful, to seek to know our gifts and use them for the greater glory of God and good of souls, others, and our own.
May the Lord give us all His peace!
Best regards in Jesus Christ to all!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Homily by Fr. Robert Altier - BSP Visitor
Communion in the Hand
Reading (Colossians 1:24-2:3) Gospel (St. Luke 6:6-11)
In the first reading today Saint Paul, in his Letter to the Colossians, talks about how, in Christ, is hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge. This is because He is almighty God; He is the Creator of the universe; He is the Savior of the world; He is God, absolute and perfect. Saint Paul says at the beginning of the reading that he makes up in his flesh for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ, for the sake of Christ's body, the Church.
In Christ, now, there is no suffering, but only in the Mystical Body. But there is one place, which I would like to address this morning, where I believe that Our Lord is truly grieved. I want to challenge you in that area: That is, the manner by which we receive Holy Communion. The Church is very clear in Her documents that she desires that we would receive Holy Communion on the tongue and not in the hand. The bishops of America, as well as a few other countries in the world, have allowed Communion in the hand as a dispensation. But the Church is very, very clear that She does not want us receiving Communion in the hand.
Let me explain a little as to why. First of all, to receive is something that is passive. The priest takes Holy Communion because the priest is the one who offers the Victim in sacrifice. Therefore, the one who offers the Victim must also take part in that Victim. But the people of God are to receive Holy Communion. To take the Host from your hand and put It into your own mouth is to take Communion, not to receive Communion; and so it is an active thing, not a passive thing. The Lord desires to give Himself to you as a gift, not to be taken by you. We need to be very careful that we do not lose the symbolism of what is happening in the Blessed Sacrament.
Also, if you will notice, during Mass after the Consecration, my fingers remain together because of the particles of the Host that are there. When we take Holy Communion in the hand, there are particles of Our Lord that are on our hands and on our fingers. That is why, after Communion, the priest will purify his fingers - because of the particles of the Host. But how often the people of God, after receiving Holy Communion, simply brush the particles onto the ground and walk on Our Lord. Or they put their hands in their pockets, and Our Lord is right there on their clothing. The abuses that this opens them up to are very grave. Not that anyone is intentionally doing that, but I think it is something that we need to consider exceedingly carefully.
What I always tell people is that you can look forward to the Day of Judgment and ask yourself how you intend to approach Our Lord, because He is your Judge. The same Lord you approach in Holy Communion is the same One you will approach on the Day of Judgment. Do you assume that you will put your hand out to Our Blessed Lord on the Day of Judgment? Is your view of judgment that you will shake Our Lord's hand and tell Him how wonderful it is to see Him? Or is your view that you will do great reverence to Our Blessed Lord? My view is that I will be flat on my face - not shaking His hand.
We do not put out our hand to God. Scripture says that God holds us in the palm of His hand. We should not be holding God in the palm of ours. He created us; He made us in His image and likeness. He is the Creator; we are the creature. We must approach Him with the greatest reverence, the greatest respect.
If we simply look at the fruit that has been borne by Holy Communion being taken in the hand, it is not good: the loss of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament, the familiarity. Thankfully it is not happening here, but go to most churches and ask yourself if you see people praying before Mass or if they are chatting, goofing around, and talking. We have lost the reverence for the Real Presence because Jesus is just "our buddy" when we put our hand out to Him; He is not our God when we do that. So we need to be very careful.
But beyond that, we can look also at what has happened spiritually to the people of God. Since we have been receiving Communion in the hand, we have lost sight of the idea of going to Confession, of our own sinfulness, of the reverence we must have for Our Lord. We have made Communion so easy a thing and so nonchalant a thing that people have lost that sense of reverence, of awe, and of respect in the Presence of Our Lord.
I challenge you to think very seriously about this issue. The bishops, like I say, have allowed it; it is not a sin if you receive Holy Communion in the hand. In some places in the early Church they did that; Saint Justin talks about it. But the Church stopped it because of the abuses against the Blessed Sacrament that were occurring. I ask you to really pray about that. Look at Jesus in the Eucharist and ask yourself, "Do I really, truly believe that this is God? That this is my Creator and my Redeemer? How, then, do I desire to approach Him?" I really believe, if you pray that through, that there is only one conclusion to which you can come.
Then, I beg you, do not remain silent about it. Tell your friends. Tell your family. Bring that word to others because all those good people out there, I do not think that they are willfully trying to do anything that would grieve Our Lord; they are doing what they have been told to do. But again, look at what has happened in the last forty years of this particular practice and ask yourself if the fruit it has borne has been good. Obviously, you love Our Lord: You are here at daily Mass; you are here every morning. The love of Our Lord is evident in you. Bring that love of Jesus out from here. The love that is in your heart, proclaim it to others and ask them in the same way to consider their actions toward Our Lord. Let us bring the reverence to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament back so that we can give Him fitting worship and praise because He is God, in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.
From the Second Reading, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Janet Klasson BSP
"Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him?" (James 2:5)
"...in the world, but not of it, for Christ!"
We in the BSP are called to practice detachment, to focus our minds and hearts on what is eternal, rather than what is passing. St. Francis renounced everything and embraced Lady Poverty, relying completely on Divine Providence for his every need. Most of us have family commitments that prevent us from renouncing all possessions, and in truth, St. Francis did not have radical poverty in mind for his lay orders. As lay Franciscans, called to live IN the world, how do we interpret the call to poverty and detachment?
Personally, I find myself at a point in my life where I have never had so much abundance. I find it ironic that almost as soon as I professed to live the rule for life, my resources increased and my situation has continued to improve. This, I feel, bears reflection, for the tempter wants to use this new abundance to distract me from the eternal. But God has a different purpose, one that must be prayerfully discerned.
Before I professed to the BSP, my husband and I often struggled to make ends meet. At the same time, I had an attachment, not so much to what I possessed, but what I did not possess. Through formation, as my prayer life grew, as fasting taught me detachment, formation became the training that built spiritual muscle.
Then came the cross of abundance. I call this a cross, because the temptations are very great when one has abundance. Jesus calls us daily to die to self, but the tempter counters with the temptation to live for self. Without grace one could easily lose one's soul. "Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (Mt. 19:24) Our Lord's warning is very clear.
In times of temptation, it is good to turn to the Church Fathers for guidance. Pope St. Gregory the Great said in one of his homilies:
"...if you cannot give up everything of this world, at least keep what belongs to the world in such a way that you yourself are not kept prisoner by the world. Whatever you possess must not possess you; whatever you own must be under the power of your soul; for if your soul is overpowered by the love of this world's goods, it will be totally at the mercy of its possessions. . . . You see, my brothers, I dare not say to you, give up everything. Yet, if you will you can give everything up even while keeping it, provided you handle temporal things in such a way that your whole mind is directed toward what is eternal."
I have come to understand that when the Lord gives abundance, it is a call to participate in his generosity, who alone possesses everything, and who gives with infinite generosity. As everything belongs to the Lord, we must be willing to be used as his instruments in dispensing all the many gifts he longs to distribute through us.
The Rule of 1221 trains and teaches us to remain attached to the Giver, rather than the gifts. By a miracle of grace we are then able embrace Lady Poverty in every circumstance, becoming instruments of the generous God, in the world, but not of it, for Christ!
Janet Klasson BSP - Divine Mercy Chapter - Canada
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - September 2009
"Day and night, without pause, the four living creatures sing: 'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God
Almighty, He who was, and who is, and who is to come!' Whenever these creatures give glory
and honor and praise to the One seated on the throne, the twenty four elders fall down before the
One seated on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever. They throw down their
crowns before the throne and sing: 'O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor
and power! For you have created all things; by your will they came to be and were made!'" (Revelation 4)
This quote taken from the Book of Revelation is a glimpse of the heavenly liturgy surrounding the throne of God. How heavenly is the liturgy on earth that we experience? In many ways the liturgy is the most basic element in our lives, as it has been since the time of Adam and Eve. Imagine all the sacrifices offered on the altar in the Old Testament, prescribed by God as a way to worship Him. Now in the New Covenant, Jesus, the Lamb of God , the ultimate Sacrifice for our Redemption, is still re-presented daily on our altars in the Holy Eucharist. In the entire sixth chapter of John's Gospel Jesus tells us of the importance of receiving His Body and Blood to make us one with Him. That encounter, that intimate union, is the peak and summit of our lives. There is nothing else to compare with it.
Imagine then, how hard it was for many to cope with questionable changes in the liturgy after Vatican II that brought something like chaos to a liturgy that had been venerated and loved by so many for so long. Some things just need to be left alone. Reverence and respect can't be "reformed." Let me give an example.
After a beautiful BSP retreat, with Fr. Altier giving his usual reverence and respect for the Sacred Mysteries, Donna and I had occasion to travel once again to Mother Angelica's Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. I wrote about a similar pilgrimage two years ago, the first time we went there. The results were just as satisfying. It was like going back in time to a world that has not been touched by the worldly. THANK GOD for Mother Angelica! THANK GOD for EWTN and its fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We should do ANYTHING to make sure EWTN enters our homes each day, a lifeline to the unchanging Divine in the midst of planned human chaos. Why? Why did Jesus have to go alone to the mountain to pray?
We are in the world but not of it. If we are of the world there's no need to leave it. If we feel stained and bloodied by the insanity around us, we need to find refuge from the world, the flesh and the devil. What should life be like, without interference from these forces? What would life be like without having the forces of evil run the world? Could we set up our own Rule of a good Christian life if we were alone on a desert island like Robinson Crusoe? A daunting task, to be sure. But anyone can find calm in the storm. And we have found one of the best at Mother Angelica's Shrine.
Here is a place where Jesus is treated like God. Isn't that a revolutionary thought? There is the utmost respect and reverence paid to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The feeling is catching. People don't talk in Church. There is awe and wonder, mystery and grandeur - with splendid ornamentation befitting a King. There is much time on the knees. I don't think there is a more fitting position for fallen humanity than being on one's knees, or completely prostrate before Almighty God. That happens a lot at the Shrine, because there is continual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Perpetual adoration is but one apostolate of Mother Angelica's Poor Clare Sisters. Their continuous presence before Jesus is a real witness to those of us who should make a visit to our own church once in a while. Their voices in prayer and singing add to the beauty and enchantment of the place. One hopes it never becomes routine.
But the highlight for me was Holy Communion. When liturgists proposed that the Eucharist was to be thought of as a community meal, and Communion would be received in the hand while standing in line, anyone with half a brain could predict what would happen. Remember the instructions we received on how to do that reverently? How many follow those instructions today?
We stand in line for tickets, for pizza and a hamburger. It's a time of distraction. Yet we expect people to bow or show some sign of reverence, take the Body of Jesus in hand, place Him on their lips on the way back to the pew, make the sign of the cross while dodging others to keep the line moving, looking at the latest fashions, trying to sing the Communion song, all the while being aware of what has just taken place? Are you kidding me? That's almost humanly impossible. It is said that two/thirds of Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence. In their defense, how can they prepare to meet the King of Kings in a heavenly liturgy if they are told to treat Jesus just like a piece of bread, as part of an ordinary meal, to be taken in a very undignified manner while doing something else, as partially outlined above? It doesn't have to be that way. In my opinion, Communion in the hand, especially, has been an unmitigated disaster!
Our holy father Francis had something very important to say about the Blessed Sacrament. "Sacred Scripture tells us that the Father dwells in light inaccessible (1 Tim. 6: 6) and that God is spirit (Jn. 4: 24), and St. John adds, 'No one at any time has seen God.' (Jn.1: 18) Because God is a spirit He can be seen only in spirit; 'It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing.' (Jn. 6: 64) But God the Son is equal to the Father and so He too can be seen only in the same way as the Father and the Holy Spirit. That is why all those were condemned who saw our Lord Jesus Christ in His humanity but did not see or believe in spirit in His divinity, that He was the true Son of God.
In the same way now, all those are damned who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ which is consecrated on the altar in the form of bread and wine by the words of our Lord in the hands of the priest, and do not see or believe in spirit and in God that this is really the most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the Most High Himself who has told us: 'This is My Body and Blood of the new covenant,' (Mk. 14: 22), and, 'He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has life everlasting.' (Jn. 6: 55) And so it is really the Spirit of God who dwells in His faithful who receive the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord. Anyone who does not have this Spirit and presumes to receive Him 'eats and drinks judgment to himself.'" (1 Cor. 11: 29) Admonitions, # 1: The Blessed Sacrament.
We mere mortals need all the help we can get to do things properly. There must be plenty of time and a proper manner of receiving Jesus into our bodies and hearts in order for us to fully appreciate what we are doing. I beg and plead with anyone who has not had the opportunity to receive Holy Communion in a holy way, to at least once in a while find a Church that does, even just to experience the pleasure of receiving Jesus in a respectful, reverent way.
One may have to go to a Latin Mass, though that's not the only place. One doesn't want to be like an old-timer explaining how great it was in one's youth, but that's how I started out, and I THANK GOD THAT I DID! The pre-Vatican II Church shaped and formed me with an unquenchable desire to know, love and serve God in this life, and be happy with Him for all eternity! And one of the reasons was the awe in which we held the Blessed Sacrament. That was a life-long lesson. To come to the most intimate encounter with Jesus, we went up slowly to the communion rail and knelt along it in orderly fashion. Sometimes we would put our hands under the cloth which was usually on the altar rail. The priest would come to each of us making the sign of the cross over us with the Sacred Host while saying (in Latin): "May the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your soul to life everlasting. Amen." Then he would place the Body of Christ on our tongues, and we would have a moment to savor the most holy and divine Sacrament before standing to leave the altar rail.
That's how it's done at the Shrine during every Mass. It's hard to explain what a pleasure it is to receive Jesus that way: on the knees, in a spirit of humility and adoration, unhurried and undistracted. And there is hope for the future, because we have also experienced this most blessed way of receiving Holy Communion in at least four other places, in addition to churches that have the traditional Latin Mass.
From the same Admonition, St. Francis concludes:
"Every day He humbles Himself just as He did when He came from His heavenly throne (Wis. 18: 15) into the Virgin's womb; every day He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar. He shows Himself to us in this sacred bread just as He once appeared to His apostles in real flesh. With their own eyes they saw only His flesh, but they believed that He was God, because they contemplated Him with the eyes of the spirit. We too, with our own eyes, see only bread and wine, but we must see further and firmly believe that this is His most holy Body and Blood, living and true. In this way our Lord remains continually with His followers, as He promised, 'Behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world.'" (Mt. 28)
Paul Beery BSP - Morning Star Chapter - Minnesota
How to Possess Everything by Lisa Drago BSP
I am learning to let go of negative thoughts about myself, God, and others. I am continually learning to let go of attachments to people, comforts, dreams, ideas, results, etc. Whenever I momentarily succeed in letting everything go, then all I have is God. THIS is possessing everything!
As St. John of the Cross tells us: "In order to arrive at possessing everything, desire to possess nothing." THIS brings such peace and contentment. I believe this is what Jesus meant whenever He spoke of peace or said, "Peace be with you." It means existing only in God -- in perfect contentment and fulfillment, moment by moment. Always with gratitude. Then, there is no need to be constantly and anxiously searching for contentment or some kind of hypothetical "self-fulfillment." Thanks be to God! This "yoke" is indeed easy if only we can trust God. This "burden" is indeed light if only we can let go of all that is not God.
Peace be with you, brothers and sisters!
Lisa M. Drago, BSP
ON FIGHTING OBSTACLES IN OUR LIFE... by Pat McQuinn BSP
Have you ever thought or really seen something that made you think of the verse in Philippians were Paul is writing that stuck in you head and grew? When in Spokane I watched a performance on the slalom that epitomized not only the spirit of the games but the spirit of the verse Paul writes. One of my team mates named Ken was on the slalom course in his manual chair for the first time. This is a man with ms who has used a power chair for several years now and until recently did not even have a manual chair that fit through his house. He has been working hard though and gave it all he had.
Now the class V slalom is far from easy. It is in fact one of the 2 hardest slalom courses in the games. One rolls over obstructions, up rams, down steps, up steps, pushes something, opens and closes doors, dodges in forward and reverse and you would not believe some of the obstacles. Now guys that have done this for years can balance on their back wheels and roll right over. Ken cannot balance on his back wheels and although he is stronger than he has been for several years is not as strong as the paras. He got started on that course and ran into problems from the start. He kept on and gutted it out. That man inched his way along some of those obstacles in a manner that brought everyone in the area over to cheer for him. Everyone screamed themselves hoarse rooting for him. He fought and fought going over and through things he had never encountered before. That was the one performance from this year I well never forget.
It stayed with me and grew stronger then that verse merged with it. In our race/journey we face many obstacles. Some are never seen, some are more public than what we would like. Our spiritual journey is like that slalom - full of obstacles. Some just seem like they have the skills to balance on their wheels and roll right though while others fight for every inch of the course.
We have coaches/spiritual advisers to help us train. We have our prayer life to help us build and maintain strength. We have the rule to help us live in a way we will be strong for the journey. When we get to the top of the ramp we have each other to encourage us when we drop off and keep going on the flat part to the next ramp. We know that as one door closes another is there to open.
We all hit difficult times during our spiritual journey and I wish everyone of you could have seen Ken's brave example of fighting on through. I will never forget his fight. And I bet every time my journey gets hard I remember his example. And I pray that others who saw or heard of his successful navigation of the course will also be encouraged by his performance to also persevere and cross the goal.
Pat McQuinn, BSP
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."
St Michael vanquishing Satan, by Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael), painted in 1581, now located in the Louvre, Paris, France
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!