THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS
St. Paul tells us, "The letter kills, but the spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). A man has been killed by the letter when he wants to know quotations only so that people will think he is very learned and he can make money to give to his relatives and friends. A religious has been killed by the letter when he has no desire to follow the spirit of Sacred Scripture, but wants to know what is says only so that he can explain it to others. On the other hand, those have received life from the spirit of Sacred Scripture who, by their words and example, refer to the most high God, to whom belongs all good, all that they know or wish to know, and do not allow their knowledge to become a source of self-complacency.
"Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said." (Matt. 28:5-6)
Us, and the God-Man…
It is easy to forget that Jesus is a man. It is easiest to imagine Him as God. Yet, when we look at the Pieta, it is the man, Jesus, lying in the arms of Mary. The body of the man Jesus! The real, physical body, of her son! It is always a worthwhile meditation to recall that Jesus was a man!
He became a man so we could relate to Him as a man. He did not come to us in the splendor of His divinity! He lived a long time on the earth before He even went public. Those years never show up in the Gospels. He was probably just another man to those around Him. Certainly a very holy and wonderful man, but it is obvious in all of this, as we have read so often, "…though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be grasped at." (Phil. 2:6) And, that is what we need to remember. He is God but He wanted us to remember He is a man.
As a man, he is our brother. Now that is something if you think about it. We can relate to Jesus as a brother! What can't you say to a brother? Nothing really! If you sit down with your brother you can just unload on him. You can tell him how you feel and ask his advice on how you should handle things. You can discuss your plans. Your dreams. You can tell him your mistakes. A brother is always willing to give you his advice. It is that simple. Nothing to fear. Unload. It is a wonderful thing!
As a man, He could have been a son. He could have been one of our friends. How we can relate to them. What does all of this mean? We need to remember Jesus is a man when we pray. We need to remember that He is there as a man even now. Outside of space and time, it is true, but eternally alive and able to hear all things at any time, with a human body and a human heart. And so, he understands us. He can relate to our joys and pains, our successes, problems, and failures, as a man. Even now, in heaven, He is a man too, at the right hand of God, the eternal and all powerful and beautiful Father, as God. Wow! It is almost overwhelming.
Sometimes it seems it just isn't fair that the apostles saw Him and knew Him as a man, and we can't! But, then, He knew that would happen, and said, as if anticipating our concern: "Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed." (John 20:29) The people of his day knew Him as a man first, then, and much later, became aware He was also God. What came first? Knowing He was human. Listening to His teaching. Watching Him suffer and die. Then seeing Him do what no man can do, rise from the dead as He said He would. In doing that He did only what God could do. He proved His divinity! Yet He came back to us as a man! He always appealed to our humanity!
So, to improve our prayer we need to reflect more on Jesus as the God-man. The man Jesus who died for our sins in a terrible death, which he could have stopped as God, but did not. We need to appreciate His humanity. Lent is all about understanding the humanity of Christ, His sacrifice, His suffering, and our need to sacrifice for Him. Easter is all about understanding He is God, and that He died so we can live with Him forever, because of His Love for us. He died and rose to give us life and joy. He died and rose because He loved us before we even existed.
So, let us give ourselves completely to Him, especially during the Triduum. Let us consider all He did for us, as the God-man. Let us gaze in sorrow at His suffering and death on Good Friday, meditating on how our own sins added to His grief. Let us go with him to the grave, and stand there watching in the silence and sorrow of those three days. We will be as astonished in our hearts at his Resurrection as those who went to the grave on Easter morning were. We will be overcome with joy at what it means to us, even in these times. In all He suffered, and in His Resurrection, let us remember He is our brother and friend, the God-man, and He awaits us, and He wants us where He is, as that is why He did it all.
So, this Easter let us sincerely rejoice in Jesus. How can we not be happy? Jesus is the kindest, most loving, gentlest, and most powerful of men we will ever meet, yet He is God. And, He is our brother by His own choice. He became man, died for us, and rose from death so He could bring us back from death to life too. To bring us to a place where the fear of death will be no more. Life on high with Him, and all who love God.
Have a holy and happy Easter, and enjoy the Octave of Easter, where we rejoice in the Lord, in joy, and prayer, and love, and do not fast or abstain.
Praised be Jesus forever!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
From the First Reading, Third Sunday of Easter
by Janet Klasson BSP
"After recalling the apostles, they had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name."
Very often this past Lent, I found myself dealing with feelings of indignation brought on by perceived injustices committed against me. More often than I would have expected in a 40-day period, it happened that other people's actions frustrated me. I felt that others were taking advantage of me, that I was being expected to take on responsibilities that rightly belonged to others. It happened often enough that I had to ask myself what was going on? Was there a message here?
Of course there was a message! God teaches through experience, and trials are the lessons God uses for the most hard-headed of his children—this one in particular. Through these trials God was giving me insight into my true character, a painful but necessary enlightenment.
I have heard myself saying from time to time that I am happiest when serving others. And for the most part that is true. But reflecting on these experiences showed me how selective I was being in my service. I wanted to serve others on my terms. God was showing me that if I wished to serve under him, I had to serve on his terms, no matter how frustrating or unjust it might feel at times. God alone knows why he asks us to serve those he places in our lives and his reasons are not always evident. Serve and trust—that is what we are asked to do, to pour ourselves out for others without counting the cost.
The apostles in the above scripture passage learned the true cost of serving God on his terms. That day they endured flogging for the "crime" of bringing people to Jesus. Eventually most of these men would suffer horrible deaths for the sake of Name. For the apostles, their painful but necessary enlightenment came on Calvary, when all but one of them abandoned their Beloved at the hour of his death out of fear and weakness. We can only imagine how they must have suffered to remember their failure on Calvary. Yet, should we not feel just as bad every time we abandon Jesus through sin?
When St. Francis was treated unjustly, he thanked his persecutors, saying it was what he deserved. If I reflect on my own sinfulness, on the times I have abandoned Jesus on Calvary, I begin to understand St. Francis' reaction and to realize how little I deserve to be treated fairly by anyone. Perhaps the lesson of my Lenten enlightenment is that the focus of my life must not be to ensure that I am treated fairly at all times. That would make my life all about me, and that would be a vast spiritual tragedy. If my life is rightly centered on God, however, then what happens to me is immaterial and I will strive to live in his will with perfect abandonment and to serve those he sends me with love and joy, never counting the cost.
I would suspect that the apostles never forgot what they had been before the gift of the Holy Spirit gave them the courage and fortitude they needed in order to serve God on his terms. And neither should we forget what we would be but for that same Spirit. As we approach Pentecost, let us reflect on what God is truly asking of us. Let us take hold of the courage and fortitude we need and be ready to serve God whole-heartedly—on his terms.
Janet Klasson BSP
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
"Since he clings to me in love, I will free him: protect him for he knows My Name. When he calls I shall answer: 'I am with you.' I will save him…and give him glory." (Ps.91 )
A recent article in the New York Times stated that scientists know the composition of only four percent of the universe: anything that could be called matter or energy. What makes up the other 96% of the universe is unknown, AND UNKNOWABLE! Scientists don't have a clue what makes up the great majority of the universe. Upon hearing this, my immediate reaction was: well then, there is plenty of room for heaven! I still remember the comment of the first Russian cosmonaut who said in typical atheist fashion that he didn't find heaven in outer space, implying of course that it didn't exist. He knows better now.
Advocates of Secularism/atheism are fervently trying to replace Christian morality with a new value system of their own. But what will they base it on? Christianity has a firm foundation in the Judeo/Christian tradition going back to, and explaining the creation of the world, and incorporating the natural law written within our hearts by our Creator.
In addition, Western Civilization prospered in part because Christian tradition was also built upon the work of Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.
What is atheism built upon? A denial of God, upheld by the false theory of Evolution? The "Enlightenment?" Talk about a great misnomer. Or can it be built upon the ultimate value of "love?" But those who make themselves their own master, rejecting God's agape love, find their "love" is lust, and a narcissistic, hedonistic lifestyle the result. That gives meaning to life? Hardly. It leads to its total degradation. Atheism leads inevitably to the total worthlessness of mankind. Said a professor in the article on the role of the human species: "Man is just a bit of pollution. We are completely irrelevant" in the grand scheme of things. Such a great outlook on life! What worthless "speck of pollution" would even want to live? Especially knowing what environmentalists think of pollution!
But our Creator has revealed Himself to us. Psalm 139 put it perfectly:
"I praise you, O God, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made. You formed my inmost being, knit me together in my mother's womb. Already You knew my soul…Your eyes foresaw all my actions; all of them written in Your Book. How mysterious Your Thoughts. If I count them, they are more than the sand. To finish, I must be eternal, like You. Search me God, and know my heart. Test me and know my thoughts; lead me in the path of life eternal."
What a difference belief in the One, True God makes! Those who don't are missing out on the greatest adventure known to mankind: to engage in a divine love affair with God who has said to us in the Person of His Son Jesus: "As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Live on in My Love." God loves us as much as He loves Himself? Talk about giving meaning to life! The contrast could not be greater: man is either a speck of pollution to be swallowed up and recycled by Mother Earth, or is called to live a life of super-natural love, then be exalted to heaven to behold the Face of God for all eternity!
Most of us owe an incalculable debt to our parents, who taught us to know, love, and serve God. My father was a quiet, humble man like Joseph, who taught by example, such as his attendance at daily Mass. By his fatherhood he created the environment in which his offspring could grow in the love of God. My mother was much more vocal, but it was only long after her death that I understood the depths of her spirituality. I know it by the fact that one of her favorite books was: "This Tremendous Lover," by Fr. Eugene Boylan. Fr. Boylan explains that our individual destiny is our common bond in the partnership of love between God and man through Jesus Christ.
The bond of all perfection is love, and the magnificence of the whole is the unity of love based on the Blessed Trinity: "That they may be one as We also are One." The development of our union with God comes through devotion, and the foundation of that
devotion is dogma. Living our Catholic faith in its fullness will help us understand the underlying plans and principles of Christianity.
He said: "It would be a grievous error to conceive the love of God as anything which essentially involves sense-emotion or feeling. The love of God lies in the grace-aided will. A very high degree of love of God is quite compatible with an absence of any feeling of emotion, and even with the presence of a feeling of distaste for the service of God (as in our Lord's Agony in the garden). To achieve the heights of the spiritual life
it is necessary to pass through a stage where one's apparent spiritual activity is reduced to a dry act of willingness to conform one's self to God's Will, in the darkness of a sheer decision to believe in God without light of any sort: the will working by faith."
We see this struggle in Jesus on the Cross: "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" In this darkness God's Plan is worked out in daily life. "Our incorporation into Christ and our vocation to everlasting union with Him in heaven, leads to a practical program of humility, charity and abandonment to the Will of God. By humility, one accepts oneself with all one's deficiencies. By charity, one 'adjusts' oneself to other members of society and lives for them as well as for oneself. By abandonment, one
strives to fulfill one's allotted task, and to accept willingly all that Providence allows to happen in one's life.
It is essential that the soul put itself in daily contact with the Lord." The book of course is an outline of how to achieve that end, and make that daily contact with God most fruitful. But there's a catch: we have to cooperate! And that means prayer and penance. We not only have to accept what Providence allows, we need: "a prompt and generous performance of all that the Divine Will clearly asks of us. It is the Will of God which gives its value to what we do. For love is the conformity of our will with the Will of God, and love eventually is all that matters."
Mother Teresa understood this perfectly. She had a wonderful response when asked about her vocation to help the poor. She said, "That's not my vocation; it's just what I do. My vocation, and that of EVERY CHRISTIAN is to LOVE GOD TOTALLY!" She just wanted to talk about Jesus, the Love of her life.
Our holy father Francis sums up this great adventure in his Exhortation to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, Concerning those who do Penance: "All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength, and love their neighbors as themselves, and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance. Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, for 'the Spirit of the Lord will rest upon them,' and He will make His Home and Dwelling among them, and they are the sons of the Heavenly Father, whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ." We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to Him when we fulfill 'the Will of the Father who is in heaven.' We are mothers, when we carry Him in our heart and body through Divine Love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to Him through a holy life which must give life to others by example."
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Blessed Luchesio and Buonadonna Modestini (d.1260)
When St. Francis of Assisi started living his Gospel life, he did not foresee the number of people that wanted to follow him. To each of them, when anyone approached him, he gave a Rule of life. He started first with the First Order (Order of Friars Minor). Then St. Clare asked to adopt his form of life as well, but could not live with the friars in the same way as they did, and so Francis wrote for Clare and her sisters a rule of life. This was then called the Second Order (Poor Clares.)
Some married people in Tuscany too felt inspired by his life and some even tried to abandon their families and homes to follow Francis. Francis told them to go back to the homes and lives and wait to receive further instructions from him. From then on, he had in mind soon to give lay people a special rule according to which they could serve God perfectly even in the world. This is how the Third Order was started.
No one knows where the Third Order was founded, but Poggibonsi, Italy, is one of the candidates, along with Cannara, Florence and Faenza. A very old local tradition in Poggibonsi says that the church was the place where St. Francis set up the order, or, at the very least, gave the Franciscan habit to the Blessed Luchesio (Lucio) Modestini, who is buried in the church. This tradition is attested to at least back to the date of a plaque over the door of the church (1221). And the Palazzo Maiolica Mandrini, a building just across the street from the church, was once a hospital, run by the Minorite friars; the place there where St. Francis maintained a cell for his use is still shown.
Let's tell more about Blessed Luchesio Modestini. As a young man, Luchesio was trapped in worldly interests, especially politics and money making. So unpopular did he make himself by his violent partisanship of the Guelf cause, that he was forced to leave Gaggiano, his native place, and to settle in Poggibonsi, where he carried on business as a provision merchant and money lender. More than most merchants, he was so entirely and soley concerned with material success that he was quite generally reputed to be an avaricious man. His wife, Buonadonna, was of a similar disposition.
Then, when Luchesio was between thirty and forty, a change came over him. His heart was touched by divine grace and he began to take interest in works of mercy, such as nursing the sick and visiting the prisons. He even gave away to the poor, all his possessions, except a piece of land which he determined to cultivate himself.
Soon afterwards St. Francis of Assisi came to Poggibonsi. After meeting St. Francis, Luchesio fervently wished to follow him. There was one problem, however. He couldn't join the Order because he was married. There were no provisions at that time for married couples to follow St Francis in the same way as the friars and sisters did in joining Franciscan communities. St. Francis, prompted by the desire of this fervent man, was inspired to form an association to accommodate individuals who had obligations and possessions but who wished to undertake a Franciscan journey.
Hence an Order for persons desiring to live the religious life in the world began. It was designed to set a standard of simplicity and devotion for them. In the beginning, the Order was known as the "Brothers and Sisters of Penance."
This was the beginning of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the Franciscan Third Order, which many persons in the environs of Poggibonsi embraced, and which was soon established in Florence too. Luchesio and his wife Bonadonna were actually, it is said, the first man and woman to receive from Francis, the habit and cord of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. He made them assume a modest and simple dress, and he prescribed verbally certain pious exercises, which they were to follow until such time as he should have composed a formal Rule.
The following year, at latest, the Founder composed the Rule for this Order. In 1221 the rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance was written by Cardinal Hugolino, Protector of the Order of Friars Minor, and orally approved by Pope Honorius III. This Rule is known under the name of "Memorial Propositi" and is currently the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis!
From the moment of their religious profession, Luchesio and Buonadonna gave themselves up to a penitential and charitable life. Luchesio gave up his business to live in poverty. However Buonadonna, his wife, was still unsure. One day, Luchesio having given all the bread that was in his house to the poor, he begged his wife to give something to others who followed. She reproached him and said that it was quite plain that his fasts and watchings had disordered his brain. The husband, as patient as he was charitable, was not irritated by these reproaches, but quietly requested his wife to look into the place where the bread was kept, thinking of Him, who by His power had satiated several thousand persons with a few loaves and fishes. She did so, and found a large quantity of fresh bread, sufficient to supply the wants of all the poor. This miracle had such an effect upon her, that from that time forward, he had no occasion to exhort her to the performance of works of mercy. News spread about the generosity of Luchesio and Buonadonna. The poor who came to them for help were never turned away. Sometimes Luchesio would give away every scrap of food that was in the house, but, somehow, there was always enough to share.
After Luchesio had put on the simple garment of a Tertiary, he rapidly advanced toward perfect holiness. He practiced penitential austerities, often fasted on bread and water, slept on the hard floor, and at his work bore God constantly in his heart. Being faithful to the Rule, Luchesio attained to great sanctity, and was rewarded by mystical experiences and the gift of healing.
One day Luchesio was carrying a crippled man he had found on the road. A frivolous young man came up and asked, "What poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?" "I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ," responded Luchesio. The young man immediately begged Luchesio his pardon.
Luchesio passed away with holy longing for God on April 28, 1260. When it became evident that Luchesio had not long to live, his wife begged him to wait a little for her, so that she who had shared his sufferings here, might participate in his happiness above. Her wish was granted, and she died shortly before her husband passed away.
Luchesio was beatified 13 years after his death. His cultus was confirmed in 1694, and his feast day is April 28th. Buonadonna is often called "blessed," though the title has never been given officially.
Julian of Speyer in his Life of St. Francis states: "The third (Order) is known as the Order of Penitents. This Order is not marked by a lesser perfection than the other two. It is open to all clerics and lay, virgins, continents, married couples, and both men and women can join it for their own salvation".
From the time of Blessed Luchesio right down to the countless numbers of lay people in every condition of life, to priests, to Bishops, to Popes, a veritable multitude of souls has attributed to the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance a great part of that spirit which spurred them on to walk in the way of perfection.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
The Franciscan Way by Dr. Robert Alonso BSP
Written as an Interfaith newsletter to bring all of mankind to love and respect each other and Your selves, regardless of religious denomination, ethnic background, sins. There is no judgement just thoughts of love, respect and consideration toward others. Written by Dr. Robert Alonso, B.S.P. of St. Francis (This newsletter does not reflect the ideas, nor is it written by any of the Senior staff of The Brothers & Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. It does not reflect the position Of any member of The Roman Catholic Church). The statements are those of Brother and Dr. Robert Alonso, B.S.P. of St. Francis, and only him is responsible for it's content.
I once read a passage in a book, written by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. "Were he stated that our main task on Earth is to decide with our minds and choose with our wills what God tell us will bring us to heaven. Nothing else really matters during the few years we have between birth and death. Our main purpose is to live a good moral life here, so we may enjoy a happy eternal life hereafter". This is really a deep down brainstorming statement. If you start thinking how many people actually perform their daily jobs saying, "Lord my God I do this in your memory or for your glory"? You might be a car mechanic and be placing new tires on a car because you would not want that person's car to go out of control. You may also be a plumber and fix an elderly person's pipes so they could have a nice warm bath. My point is that whatever you do or may do in this life. Let the Love and Glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ be your reason and you chose to do this because of your free will!! Neither permit earthly material urges nor do peer pressures misguide you. After all we are only here for a limited time and you cannot take what earthly possessions you have, with you.
I have a very dear friend who had been a police officer, with the drugs unit. He once admitted to me that he had done many things in order to apprehend the people he would be after. He felt so isolated and distance from God. I helped find proper counseling and in a way, also helped to find his way back. He had a strong religious background from his youth (which of course helped). He ended up being a counseling Minister for young people with drug problems. Last time I saw him, he said with watery eyes:" Bob I am now performing the Lord's work and in his name". I do not expect for many of us to drop what we do and change careers. We all cannot be carpenters. But if you are performing a job or task, to know that if you do it is for God's glory. Any job or any task which might lead you into the wrong path; no matter if it is lucrative. It's not worth your spirit.
"If anyone wishes to come after me, He must deny himself and take up his cross daily And follow me." (Luke 9:23)
Robert Alonso BSP
A message from the Holy Father: ON PENANCE!
VATICAN CITY, March 11 (CNA) - Thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square on a sunny Spring-like day to hear the words of Pope Benedict XVI at his weekly Angelus address. The Holy Father examined the mortality of all men and reminded those present that true conversion is the only path to conquering evil and death.
The Holy Father focused on Jesus' comments about two current events of his time, one involving the unjust death of a few Galileans at the hands of Pontius Pilate, the other a disaster in which several people in Siloam were crushed under a falling building.
Jesus asked those around him, "Do you think those Galileans were the worst sinners in all of Galilee…or that those 18 people were the most blameworthy of all the inhabitants of Jerusalem? (Lk 13:2,4)" Jesus' answer to both questions, the Pope pointed out, is the same: "No, I say to you, if you do not convert you will perish in the same way. (Lk 13: 3,5)"
"This, then, is the point that Jesus wants to make to his listeners: the necessity of conversion," the Pope said.
"True wisdom is understanding the precariousness of life and assuming an attitude of responsibility." That is, he clarified, "doing penance and improving our lives."
Cautioning all those listening to his words, the Pope added that all must undertake such penance and conversion, "otherwise, we will perish, we will all perish in the same way."
According to Pope Benedict, this conversion takes place not only on the personal level, but applies to all society as well. "In effect, people and societies that live without ever questioning themselves about these things have the same final destiny: total ruin."
"Conversion, then, though it will not preserve us from problems, will allow us to confront them in a different way," he added. Concretely, this means that conversion "allows us to conquer evil with good, if not always in a material sense, then certainly on the spiritual level."
Before closing with a Marian prayer, the Pope synthesized his address, reemphasizing for all present that "conversion conquers evil at its root, which is sin, even if it does not always avoid its consequences."
In his closing prayer, the Pope asked Mary to "accompany us and sustain us on our Lenten journey so that all Christians may rediscover the greatness and the beauty of conversion."
A HOLY AND HAPPY EASTER TO ALL! REJOICE! HE IS RISEN! ALLELUIAH!
Amedeo Trivisonno, Italian painter (1904-1995)
fresco in the Addolorata Shrine, Santa Maria Del Molise, Italy
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
a.k.a. the BSP, is a non-profit Private Association of the Faithful, which is dedicated to renewing the ancient way of penance as contained in the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 for lay people in our modern world. We have the blessing of the Catholic Church to do this through several of its bishops. If you are bound by another Rule of life in another profession of the way of St. Francis that does not permit you to enter other religious families you are nonetheless invited to become an Honorary member of our Association and add the elements of this beautiful way of life that Saint Francis of Assisi gave us to the lifestyle of your profession.
All members, and Franciscans, are welcome to submit articles for consideration for inclusion in this newsletter if they are directed towards the spiritual formation of members or are the outgrowth of the lifestyle of the Association. Just send them to the BSP at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends or neighbors. It is intended to be the primary monthly communication of the Association. And if you can find it in your heart and in your budget remember that donations to the BSP are used strictly to promote the lifestyle and are tax deductible. We remain, always, sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Welcome to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance!
"Let the crucifix be not only in my eyes and on my breast, but in my heart." (St. Bernadette)