BONAVENTURE AND HIS LESSONS ON ST. FRANCIS:
Chapter IX – Those who refused to honor the saint by not keeping his feast day
Another time, after his return from overseas, St. Francis went to preach at Celano and a knight begged him to come over and have dinner with him. So he came to the house and the whole family was there to celebrate his arrival with his companions. However, before they sat down St. Francis offered praise to God, as was his custom, and stood there praying, with his eyes raised to heaven. When he had finished, he beckoned his generous host aside and told him, "Brother host, you persuaded me to come and dine with you, and I came. But now do what I tell you immediately, because you are going to eat in another world, not here on this earth. Confess all your sins with genuine sorrow, and leave nothing untold. God means to reward you today for having given his poor such a warm welcome."
The knight took his advice and confessed all his sins to Francis' companion, and put his affairs in order, doing everything he could to prepare for death. Eventually they took their places at table and just as they were beginning to eat, their host suddenly dropped dead, as the saint had foretold. So it was that as a reward for his kindness in showing hospitality, he received the reward given to prophets, because he had given a prophet the welcome due to a prophet, as we read in the Gospel (cf. Mt.10,41). Warned by the saint's prophecy, the knight had prepared for immediate death and clad in the armor of repentance he escaped eternal damnation and was received into the eternal dwelling places.
When the saint was lying sick at Rieti, a loose living and worldly cleric named Gedeon fell seriously ill and took to his bed. He had himself brought before the saint and, together with those who were present, he begged him tearfully to bless him with the sign of the cross. But the saint replied, "How could I make the sign of the cross over you. You have indulged your passions for years without a thought for God's judgment. However, I shall make the sign of the cross over you, in the name of God, because your friends are pleading with me. But remember that you will have worse to suffer in the future, if you go back to your old ways once you have been cured. The sin of ingratitude always leaves people worse off than ever." The moment he made the sign of the cross the sick man recovered and got up from his bed, praising God with the words, "I am saved!" The bystanders heard his bones cracking like dry weed being broken.
A short time afterwards, however he forgot God once more and gave his body over to impurity again. Then one night after he had dined in the house of a fellow canon and had gone to bed, the roof of the house fell in on them all. The others escaped, but he was trapped and killed, so that the last state of that man was worse than the first, by God's just retribution.
Bonaventure—Major Life of St. Francis (1263)
Poverty, Chastity, Obedience, and Lent
Fr. Brian Mullady, O.P. commented on a variety of subjects in the December issue of The Catholic Servant in December of last year. One of them that struck us was his discussion of vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as taken by religious. He commented on them as follows:
" The evangelical counsels were recommended by Christ as an easier way to get to Heaven. It is not that you can't get to Heaven in other ways, but they are recommended precisely because they address egotism, domination and manipulation in the three great areas which we all have deviant tendencies to: sexuality, material possessions and pride."
As lay people we have to make decisions in these areas all the time. Most of us have families and despite some good natured kidding I have used when asked why we have seven children, (I would reply "from eating too many oranges"), sexuality is a part of our lay married lives. A necessary part of continuing the race in response to God's command to 'be fruitful and multiply. Our children, adults now with their own families, call it the product of 'raging hormones' which actually, factually, is the 'fire' of adult sexuality. Our God is a God of fire in more ways than one!
Hence, us being fallen, it is also a cause for sin if we misuse it or abuse our sexuality. So, watching over our sexuality is an adult responsibility if we want to get to Heaven, and taking vows to shield us from these sins, as priests and religious do, is a further incentive to living our sexuality right.
As lay people we have the same concerns. We need to use our sexuality right and the Rule we live calls us to modest living as an incentive to do that. And, as our priest, marriage counselor, taught us in our marriage preparation conference, 'anything goes' so long as the marital embrace is completed in the normal manner which answers a lot of questions about how the world says it all should go!
We don't take vows but we make promises to promote chastity in our lives whether married or single.
Earthly possessions are part of our lay lives too. We can take vows to use them rightly but how is that going to be defined? The Gospel calls us to be poor in spirit and to use the things of this world rightly we need to be poor in spirit. We accept and use the things that God has given us as part of our life. Religious and priests have more than most of us at their disposal and at our expense, not their own. But, they don't own them. They share them in community. So, perhaps the best way for us to use things is to keep in mind they are part of our community, that is, family life. In our family, for our family, to be used for our family things. Otherwise, they are as useless to us as they are to priests and religious.
Finally, there is pride. Pride is the pillar of all sin it is said. This area is one of the biggest areas we can attempt to correct in our lay lives. Pride is the enemy between us and peace. Pride is the usual cause of many problems in relationships between adults. The cure is humility. Being the least of all and last of all. Putting others first always, and in all ways.
We make professions to live our Rule, not vows. If we did make vows they would be difficult to interpret in many regards. Like article 26 that calls us to make "peace among the brothers and sisters" when we are all miles apart generally. How do we do that?
That said it is beneficial to commit ourselves to live our Rule the right way in our world and to do that we must address in ourselves and our lives how we handle material possessions especially those we don't need to live: our sexuality in a world that loves and promotes promiscuous sex and increasingly diminishes the sacrament of marriage: and our pride while yet remaining leaders in our lives who follow the Gospel and live our faith to the full. We have some serious questions here to answer, and Lent is a very good time to reflect on how we more fully come alive in our Faith and as lay people address the evangelical counsels in our own lives for they are as much a part of our lay lives as they are for any priest or religious.
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Homily by Fr. Robert Altier
Looking Forward to the Resurrection
Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans, which we heard in the second reading today, tells us that if we are in the flesh we have no part of Christ. Now this is an odd saying because at the time that Saint Paul wrote this he obviously was in the flesh. And the people to whom he wrote it, the people of Rome, obviously were still in the flesh as well. So the question is why would he say such a thing? It is not a question of whether one is alive; but rather, it is a question of whether we are simply trying to live a natural life or a supernatural life. It is a question of whether our focus is on the body or on the soul. And that choice is entirely ours. Saint Paul tells us that if the Spirit of Christ is not in us, then we have no part of Christ; if the Spirit of Christ is in us, then we are living the life of Christ. And if we are living the life of Christ, then the body is dead because of sin, while the spirit lives.
And so each one of us can only look at our own self and ask ourselves: Am I living the life of Christ? Is Christ living in me? When I am living my life out in the world, do people see Christ in me? Do they hear Christ in my words? Do they recognize Christ in my actions? Do they realize that after they have had an encounter with me that they have really had an encounter with Jesus Christ? Can we say that? Or instead, would we have to say that what we have been doing is to indulge the flesh? The senses? To make sure that we are well entertained? That all of the things that are comforts for the body are number one? To see to it that we are surrounded with all of the things we like so that we have an easy way for the body, while paying little attention to the soul? If we just simply look at our own lives and ask how much time out of the day we spend in prayer and how much time out of the day we spend on the body, for most Americans, very little is spent in prayer, if any at all. But many, many hours out of the day are spent on the body – the body which Saint Francis of Assisi called "Brother Donkey" – not exactly where we ought to be putting so much emphasis. Certainly, because we are alive in this world, we need to eat and we need to sleep and we need to care for the body; we are the stewards of the body. But Saint Paul would say, "I pummel my body lest, after preaching to others, I myself might be lost." We need to discipline the flesh so the spirit will be able to live. But the American way is to give into the desires of the flesh and in turn to kill the spirit.
Now for all of us as Christian people, we know fully well that this life is only a passing reality. It is something which is exceedingly temporary. We can look at people who die when they are 80, 90, or even 100 years old, and we talk about how they lived a long life. But we know that we are called to eternity, life without end. One hundred years is as nothing, a tiny slice of the fullness of reality. And so when we look at trying to make sure that we have everything in this world in this life, it is a pagan way of living; it is to say that we are going to put all the emphasis here so we can make sure that we have it easy, that we are living the "good life" as they would say – not necessarily that we are living a good life, but that we are living the good life.
Instead, we need to look beyond. And that is what the Church provides for us in the first reading and in the Gospel today: God telling us through the prophet Ezekiel that He will open our graves and have us rise from them. There is life beyond death. That is not the American reality. "This is the only time. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!" We, as Christian people, should be praying that tomorrow we would die so that we could rise from the dead and live for the spirit and not for the flesh, live for Christ and not for this world. But in this world, we need to learn already to live for Christ, not for the self. We have been purchased and at a price, the price which is the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are to die to the flesh in order to live in the spirit.
This time of Lent is all about trying to put the flesh to death. Not to commit suicide, in that sense; but rather, to look at all the things of the senses and to learn how to deny the desires of the body in order to see what is most important - and that is the soul. Saint Paul tells us in his Letter to the Galatians that the spirit and the flesh are at war with one another. The body, the flesh, and the senses, war against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. So the question each one of us has to ask is where are we going to put the emphasis? Do we want to live in the life of the spirit? Do we want to live in Jesus Christ and for Jesus Christ? Or do we want to live the life of the flesh, to live in and for this world, so we can make sure that we live only in the immediate, in the American way of immediate gratification, immediate fulfillment of whatever it is that we desire? That is not the way of Christ. The way of those who live in the spirit is to live in this world as only a passing reality because we are looking forward. We are looking, not to immediate gratification, but rather to a gratification that is going to come only after this life. It is trying to develop the spiritual life here in this world because we know what we are called to is the life of the spirit for all eternity. So we want to be able to develop that now, to live the life of the spirit now, so that we will be able to live that in its fullness in the world to come.
If we are at all concerned about the body, it needs to be in how much the body is going to share in the glory of God for all eternity, not how much the body is going to share in the pleasures of this world for a temporal bit. Jesus looked at Martha and said to her, "Your brother will rise." And Martha made the act of faith and said, "I know he will rise in the resurrection on the last day." But Jesus looked at her and said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Then He looked at Martha again and said, "Do you believe this?" Jesus, today, looks each one of us right in the eye and asks the same question, "Do you believe this?"
Your body, the one right here in the pew, is going to rise from the dead. Do you believe this? It is not only the just who are going to rise from the dead; the unjust will [rise] as well. The prophet Daniel tells us that some will rise and they will be an everlasting horror and a disgrace, and the just will rise and they will shine like stars in the kingdom of God. Your body will rise from the dead and it will be reunited with your soul. It is not a different body; it is this one that is right here. And it is the soul, which animates our body right now, which is going to live forever with this body that we have right now.
Now the question is - Is our body going to rise and be glorified or is our body going to rise and be horrified? The choice is ours, and the choice is made now in this world, not in the next. We can live for the flesh and be horrified for eternity or we can live for the spirit and be glorified for eternity. Which do we choose? The ways of the world are very enticing. It is hard for us to resist all of the temptations that are placed before us. The people in the media are very adept at trying to convince us that we need all kinds of things we do not need. They are very adept at putting ideas into our heads so that the desires of the flesh are going to rise up and rebel against our soul. We have a choice to make. We can spend our time focused on the body and the desires of the flesh, making sure that we are filling ourselves up with all the world has to offer and driving ourselves directly into the grave. Or we can spend our time filling up the spirit, making sure that the desires of the soul are taken care of, and then we can spend our lives moving beyond the grave, looking toward eternity, and living in this world for the next.
That is the choice each one of us has to make: the spirit or the flesh. Those who live in this life in the flesh have no part of Christ. But those who are animated by the Spirit of Christ live the life of Christ. God will open the graves and we will rise from them. So do not simply look at this life and the flesh and move yourself to death. But rather, look to the spirit, to the soul, and move toward life - the fullness of life in this world and eternal life in the next - by living now a spiritual life, by being animated by the Spirit of Christ and allowing the life of Christ to be lived in you and through you so that by living that way in this world you will rise to be glorified, to shine like a star in the kingdom of God, and to be with Jesus Christ forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.
From the Second Reading, Fifth Sunday of Lent
by Janet Klasson BSP
"More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ."
Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, record snowfalls in several states, landslides, floods, tsunamis, economic uncertainty---and the year has barely begun! Too, disharmony seems rampant in the world, between countries, family members, in parishes, within the Church itself. Can there be any more doubt that something cosmic in significance is going on? That what has been sown by the culture of death is now beginning to be reaped?
If we wondered before about God's reasons for calling souls to the life of penance, surely that question has by now been answered. Evil has been unleashed in the world through almost limitless sin, and as Scripture tells us, "This kind (of demon) can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Douay-Rheims, Mark 9:29) If, as they say, an army marches on its stomach, then God's army marches on an empty one. We embrace weakness to allow God's strength free reign within us, for his power is made perfect in weakness. St. Leo the Great, pope, said this in one of his homilies:
"No one should fear to suffer for the sake of justice; no one should lose confidence in the reward that has been promised. The way to rest is through toil, the way to life is through death. Christ has taken on himself the whole weakness of our lowly human nature. If then we are steadfast in our faith in him and in our love for him, we win the victory that he has won, we receive what he has promised."
Of course, suffering in and of itself has no value. In God's economy, however, nothing we give to him is ever wasted. This is explained beautifully by St. Faustina:
"Where there is genuine virtue, there must be sacrifice as well; one's whole life must be a sacrifice. It is only by means of sacrifice that souls can become useful. It is my self-sacrifice which, in my relationship with my neighbor, can give glory to God, but God's love must flow through this sacrifice, because everything is concentrated in this love and takes its value from it." (Divine Mercy in My Soul, #1358)
As St. Faustina says, the key to suffering effectively is love. When we enter into the Sacred Heart of God, then all we do and are becomes sanctified, purified, and fortified. In this way we are able to give our lives to the service of God for his glory and for the salvation of the sinners he died to save. There is no higher calling than to give our lives for those most in need. I once felt the Lord telling me, "There are many ways to be a martyr, one of which is to lay down your life one desire at a time."
As St. Paul tells us in the above passage from Philippians, we accept the loss of all things, so as to gain Christ. In embracing the life of penance for love of God and neighbor, we gain Christ for ourselves and for those God has given us to pray for. In the words of St. Pio, "It is true that God's power triumphs over everything, but humble and suffering prayer prevails over God Himself."
So as we continue our 40 days in the desert, may our fasting and abstinence be done in and through the loving heart of God, that we might participate in the saving power of Christ and in some way relieve our crucified Savior's unquenchable thirst for souls.
Excerpt from the Pelianito Journal blog (www.pelianito.stblogs.com)
November 27, 2009:
Ezekiel 4:16-17 Then he said to me: Son of man, I am breaking the staff of bread in Jerusalem. They shall eat bread which they have weighed out anxiously, and they shall drink water which they have measured out fearfully, so that, owing to the scarcity of bread and water, everyone shall be filled with terror and waste away because of his sins.
"My little one, it is sin that brings disaster. How I long for my children to repent of their sins, for then I would increase their blessings and suffering would end. This is a very stubborn generation which wallows in pride and wears its filthy garment like a robe of glory. My child, heaven sighs and weeps. There is much to come. Let those who will repent throw themselves into the ocean of my mercy. Use your prayers and penances to bring others with you. Take each one and immerse him or her. Do not stop, my child, until the day of mercy comes to an end. Child, be an instrument of mercy, and trust in me. Pray, trust, and be at peace. I am with you and all those who place their trust in me."
Jesus I trust in you! In the Divine Will, I immerse all souls, especially those most in need of your mercy, into the ocean of your mercy. Lord have mercy! Amen.
Janet Klasson BSP - Divine Mercy Chapter - Canada
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - March 2010
"You call Me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." (John 13)
After being out for approximately six hours I woke up, not to see the Shining Light in the distance every faithful disciple longs for – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – but the dim lights and muffled voices of the medical team in the Recovery room (cont. from last month). The long operation was over, apparently successful. But I could not hide the disappointment of returning to exile in this vale of tears instead of being transported to the Glory of Heaven! How could it be otherwise? No slight to my loved ones here on earth laboring with me on a seemingly endless Pilgrimage to our eternal Home. But that's our Home, it's where we belong, and our hearts are restless until they come to Eternal Rest with our Creator.
There were many consolation prizes. I learned about the Mystical Body of Christ. There was such an outpouring of love and attention from family and friends, BSP members, and even total strangers. All had one thing in mind: to heal the broken member and make it whole again. Five days in the hospital brings one into contact with many people, all working for the same goal. Beautiful flowers appeared out of nowhere. Very appropriately, Valentine's Day came along. I said to Donna, my Sweetheart: "I don't know if I can produce this many flowers for you again next year. I'm running out of body parts."
Preparing for death has given me, of necessity, a new outlook on life. I learned how to accept the gifts others gave, instead of being the giver. While it is more blessed to give that to receive, no one can give if no one receives. I can't describe how wonderful it was to interact with other members of the Mystical Body in the give and take of loving relationships. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.
There were gifts from the Lord, chief among them the GIFT of a NEW LIFE, which took a while to accept. In some ways I had a perfect "vacation" from the shortcomings we so often experience, almost an "out of body" time of peace and security in the Lord. And then came the stark realization that I had to re-learn, as it were, all the previous strategies on how to cope once again with life "in the body."
Will I live so as to be always as well prepared for death as I was a short time ago? Lent is the perfect time to reflect on true repentance. If preparing to meet the Lord doesn't bring heart-felt sorrow for sin, NOTHING WILL! Can it be retained when the grim reality of the curse of Original Sin returns, along with the same old temptations? The GIFT OF REPENTANCE is needed to maintain that blessed sorrow.
I was fortunate to be able to attend a Lenten talk at our parish. Fr. Andrew Cozzens talked about "The Battle with Our Darker Side," quoting from a sermon by Cardinal Newman: "Knowledge of God's Will without Obedience." We seek to do God's will, and pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." We have the knowledge: "Now that you know these things," why don't we ACT, and "be blessed if you do them." Newman said there are several typical responses. Many people know right from wrong, but they are too apathetic to change their behavior. Others care enough to struggle against sin, but can't overcome it. They are not really content with their sins, but the attraction is too powerful to overcome. Opportunities for conversion abound, but deep down they DON'T REALLY WANT TO CHANGE!
The attitude that is required for salvation is the earnest prayer: "FATHER, I WANT TO CHANGE!" Here the double-minded need not apply, for this attitude requires a permanent state of DESIRE TO CHANGE, accompanied by actions to overcome the occasions of sin so common to each of us. Maintain the desire to remove the obstacles in my heart, so I can really be who God wants me to be. ONLY GOD can do that.
Fr. Cozzens said that those with true repentance then experience the GREATEST POWER ON EARTH, which Jesus gave to Peter, and through him to His Church: the power, the authority to forgive sins. "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven." God acts through the person of the priest. It doesn't get any better than that. Not only has the penitent shown true sorrow for sin, but exercised the virtue of humility in confessing his sins to another frail human being. He is rewarded by having the CERTAINTY his sins are forgiven BY GOD through His instrument the priest. "Your sins are forgiven you," is DIVINE POWER. Thank God for the gift of true repentance, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation!
I treasure the GIFT of JESUS HIMSELF in HOLY COMMUNION! We are granted a foretaste of Heaven, a time when the Shining Light in the distance enters our hearts to give us strength for the journey. He gives us the knowledge of the Father's will, and makes us blessed when we DO IT! Donna gave me the following beautiful prayer of Padre Pio: Thanksgiving after Communion, and for each moment of our life:
"STAY WITH ME, LORD"
Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. You know how easily I abandon You.
Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without meaning and hope.
Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You I am in darkness.
Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.
Stay with me, Lord, so that I can hear Your voice and follow You.
Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You ever more, and to be in Your company always.
Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be always faithful to You.
Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I wish it to be a place of consolation for You, a dwelling of Your love.
Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late; the days are coming to a close and life is passing. Death, judgment and eternity are drawing near. It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way, and for that I need You. It is getting late, and death approaches. I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows.
O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!
Stay with me, Jesus, because in the darkness of this life, with all its dangers, I need You. Help me to recognize You as Your disciples did at the Breaking of the Bread, so that the Eucharistic Communion be the light which disperses the darkness, the power which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.
Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death I want to be one with You, and if not by Communion, at least by Your grace and love.
Stay with me, Jesus. I do not ask for divine consolations because I do not deserve them, but I only ask for the gift of Your presence. Oh yes! I ask this of You!
Stay with me, Lord, for I seek You alone, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and I ask for no other reward but to love You more and more, with a strong and active love.
Grant that I may love You with all my heart while on earth, so that I can continue to love You perfectly throughout all eternity, dear Jesus. Amen!
Paul Beery BSP
Morning Star Chapter