BONAVENTURE AND HIS LESSONS ON ST. FRANCIS:
VIII – Those who were cured of various diseases
A man named Peter from Foligno was making a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Michael, when he committed an offense against the reverence expected of a pilgrim and drank at a well. There and then a number of devils entered into him. For three years afterwards he was possessed, and he tore at his own body, while speaking and behaving frightfully. However, he occasionally had lucid intervals and he heard of the efficacy of St. Francis' power in putting demons to flight. He implored his intercession with all humility and went to his tomb. The moment he touched it, he was miraculously delivered from the devils who tormented him. St. Francis also had pity on a woman from Narni who was possessed, and on many others, but it would take too long to describe their sufferings and how they were cured.
A leper called Bonomo from Fano who was paralyzed was brought to the church of St. Francis by his parents and completely cured of both diseases.
A young man by the name of Atto from San Severino who was covered with leprosy was cured by the merits of St. Francis, when he made a vow and had himself brought to the saint's tomb. The saint excelled in curing this disease because in his love of humility and kindness he had devoted himself to the service of the lepers.
A noble woman called Rogata in the diocese of Sora had suffered from a flow of blood for twenty-three years and had endured all kinds of treatment from various doctors. Her condition was so serious that she often seemed on the point of dying, but if the flow was stopped, her whole body swelled up. Then she heard a young man singing in the local tongue about the miracles which God had worked through St. Francis. She was overcome with sorrow and burst into tears. Then her faith was roused and she exclaimed, "O blessed father Francis! You are famous for such great miracles! If only you would be so good as to cure me of my illness, then you would enjoy greater glory than ever, because you have not performed a miracle like that yet." No sooner had she uttered her prayer than she felt that she had been cured by the saint's intercession.
St. Francis also healed her son Marius whose arm was paralyzed, when they made a vow in his honor. A woman from Sicily who had suffered from a flow of blood for seven years was also healed by the saint.
Bonaventure—Major Life of St. Francis
ADMINISTRATOR'S MESSAGE: … FAITHFUL
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." (Isa 7:14)
This month we celebrate this Scripture. In this Season, and in our lives. Christmas is the Season of the Faithful One, who came as God said He would, and calls us all to be similarly faithful, to what He gives us, to His message in the Gospel.
In this Season we are called to be faithful. To ponder anew what God has given us. To bring it to life in our actions, thoughts, and words. In our families, and in our crazy, Godless, society. The Church has set the birthday of Jesus before us for always. The season of Advent to prepare for the season of Christmas. The Season of Christmas to prepare for eternity. We are called to be faithful to preparation for the coming of the Christ, Immanuel, so that we will in fact be ready when He arrives. He will arrive one day, when we know not the hour, and we will stand before Him and to the extent we were faithful to prepare for Him here, and have responded to His incessant but patient call, we will be ready to meet Him then.
This whole season of Advent and Christmas is a microcosm of our life and journey on earth. We examine and prepare for further examination and preparation. The first call to faithfulness, the call to celebrate His coming, is a preparation for the second call, to prepare for our going to Him. We prepare, again, and again, all our lives, for His Birthday, especially living our Rule, and like all human birthdays we celebrate his human birthday, as the Son of Man. This preparation on our part is our beginning to prepare for when we will meet Him as Son of God. To be faithful in the first is to prepare for the Second, and somewhere this message seems to get lost, especially in this age. He will be 'born again' to us, as the Son of God, "and we shall see Him as He is…" (1 Jn 3:2)
To be Faithful means to live for Him, in whom all things exist. "It is… "He who is the beginning, the first born of the dead, so that primacy may be His in everything." (Col 1: 18) And our life in Him is our response to His call for us to be faithful to Him as He was faithful to us. He did what He said He was going to do, and He did it in a way that only God could. He told us centuries before it happened what would happen, and when it happened He revealed his faithfulness to us. And, so: "God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor 1:9)
Now, as Christmas comes again, let us examine our lives, especially during this Advent Season, as we prepare for His birthday by preparing our hearts, for He is the Lord of our hearts. He said so often to His disciples: "What are you thinking in your hearts?" (Lk 5:22). We really should answer that question to ourselves often, especially when we are stressed out over something. Does anything matter compared to this question? And, we know how to be faithful, as St. Paul says: "But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it…" (2TM 3:14)
We are here today and gone tomorrow. The day will come, and may be nearer than we want or think, when our faithfulness will be measured, for the Lord gives to each as they merit, as only He can. "Behold, I am coming soon. I bring with me the recompense I will give to each according to his deeds." (RV 22:12)
So, let us all be faithful to His call. Let us spend our time this Advent in a special way, considering our faithfulness to Jesus Christ, who is most worthy of our trust. How often should we say, Jesus, I trust in you! How often should we ask how we can be more faithful. How we can be better servants. As He said: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me." (JN 14:1)
We need to prepare for that final meeting with Him, and His birthday is a cause for us to reflect and ponder our 'birth' day into His eternal presence. How much we should all long to hear: "Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master's joy." (Matt 25:21)
A holy and happy Christmas to all!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Homily by Fr. Robert Altier
Becoming Saints in the Desert of This World
Second Sunday of Advent
In the first reading this morning, the prophet Isaiah cries out, "Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord," and he tells us that the comfort is going to come because the people have expiated their sins. God has given to them double for what their sins were. And in the midst of all of their purification, which happens through the suffering they have to endure, there is going to be a voice of one crying out in the desert, "Make straight the way of the Lord!" So we see, then, the manner in which this is going to take place.
Saint John the Baptist came literally to the desert where he preached the gospel of repentance and baptized people. The people recognized the holiness of Saint John the Baptist. We hear the description of what he looked like. He was living out in the Judean desert, which means down by the Dead Sea – which is the lowest place on earth and a very, very hot and humid area, not a pleasant place to be at all. He wore a camel skin garment and ate grasshoppers and wild honey. If he lived in the twenty-first century, the psychiatrists would have locked him up. Instead, he is the holiest man to have ever walked the face of the earth (with the exception of Our Lord and Our Lady). There was nothing that, on the external level, would have attracted anyone to this man, unless they thought they were going to see some kind of a spectacle. But that is not what they went out into the desert for. They went out in the desert to hear the message of repentance.
The same thing has to be true today. We live in a desert. We do not live in a desert area; we live, obviously, here in Minnesota in a very lush area, as far as water is concerned. But all we need to do is look around society and ask if this society is godly, if we can see the evidence of people living holy lives as we travel around. As you do your Christmas shopping, just ask yourselves, "How are people at the mall?" Do we see the evidence of them living truly Christian lives? Or are people out Christmas shopping and preparing for the Birth of the Savior while sinning against one another all the way, pushing and shoving and taking and grabbing? It is all about "me" and it is not about charity. When it comes to virtue, I think most of us will readily admit: We live in a desert.
That desert is a necessary place because one of the things one learns about in the desert is that there are only two possibilities for survival. That is, you either rely on yourself or you rely on God. It does not take long out in the desert to figure out that you cannot rely on yourself and think that you are going to survive. There is nothing out in the desert. There is no food; there is no water; there is lots of sun and lots of sand and that is about it. So you can either rely on yourself and die, or you can rely on God and you will prosper and live.
In our society, then, spiritually it is the same; spiritually speaking, we live in a desert. If you wander out into the world, there is not much there that is going to feed your soul. It is empty out there. From a spiritual perspective, there is no water and there is no food. That is why Saint John the Baptist, following the prophet Isaiah, has to cry out, "All the mountains must be made low and all the valleys must be filled in!" That has to do with our soul. It is not merely what is physical out in the desert, but it is now what is spiritual out in the desert.
And so we need to recognize that as horrible as many things are out in the world, God is going to use that for our good to bring about great holiness for us, the holiness Saint Peter speaks of in the second reading when he reminds us of what will happen one day at the end of the world: that the earth is going to be destroyed in fire and all of the elements will be melted in flames. He said, "This being the case, what kind of persons ought you to be, and what kind of holiness should you be striving for, and what kind of devotion?" – knowing what is in store, that every deed that has ever been done in the history of the world is going to be revealed at the general judgment, which means that every single person is going to get to see every single thing that we did and we will get to see everything that they did. That is ultimately, of course, to demonstrate God's mercy, to show to all of us just how much He has forgiven. It will be very clear then exactly what Saint Peter said: that Our Lord's coming is not delayed the way some people would consider delay, but rather, God's patience is directed at repentance because He wants all to be saved, as many as possible. We will see that one day.
But in the meantime, we need to be living lives of holiness. And having to live in this society, in this world, in this spiritual desert that we live in, is an immense gift, provided that we recognize it for what it is. We have an opportunity in this society to be able to walk out into the world where we will not be accepted, where the conditions will be harsh and brutal, where we can rely on ourselves and become just like everybody else out there and die spiritually, or we can learn that because the forces that surround us on every front are so powerful, not only walking out of your house and into the world and into the shopping centers and into the office place, but it invades your home – the paperboy drops it off every morning; it is there on the television and the radio every time that you flip the thing on; it is there coming from other people through the telephone lines – so it is not just out there separate from us, it has invaded every part of our lives and we cannot, by ourselves, withstand it. It would be like trying to withstand a torrent of a flood that is racing right at you and you brace yourself and say, "I'll be able to withstand this!" It is going to knock you right over and sweep you away.
But, for us, we are not trying to do it alone. The gift in living in this society where our faith is not being supported and built up by most of the people around us and it is certainly not being supported and encouraged by the media and society in general, is precisely that we must understand that we cannot do things alone but we must rely on God, just like the people out in the desert. Again, if we think of Saint John the Baptist and put ourselves into his place and say, "I'm going to go out in the desert of this world and I'm going to rely on God so that He is going to feed me," locusts and wild honey don't sound like a real exciting diet. Yet we recognize that it was sufficient for Saint John the Baptist. And God's grace will be sufficient for each one of us, but it may not come the way we would like it to come.
We might like to dream about better days when the world (or at least the local society) was Catholic and people encouraged one another in virtue and lived lives of devotion and the greeting on the street was "Praised be Jesus Christ!" rather than "Good Morning". This is the way some societies have been. We have never known it in this society. And while indeed it would be much easier to be a good Catholic in a society where everyone around us is living their faith and it is being encouraged on all sides, at the same time it would also become very easy to be lax in our faith in a society like that because we learn simply to take it for granted.
In this society, we cannot take it for granted. All that we can take for granted in this society is selfishness and materialism and ease and pleasure seeking and all the things I keep harping on over and over again; that is the only thing we can take for granted in this society. So we need to stay on our toes. If we are going to live our faith, it is going to be an uphill battle; in so doing, we are going to be strong, we are going to be spiritually "in shape" because we have had to fight for our faith, because we have learned that we cannot rely on ourselves but we must rely on God. It is useless to think about some other society where people were really living their faith and supporting one another in it because that is not where we live. We need to deal with reality now. We live in a desert and each one of us is called in this desert to become holy, to learn to rely on God, to knock down the mountains of our pride that make us think we can do it ourselves, to fill up the valleys of our low self esteem, which is nothing but false humility on the other hand. We need to fill that up so the way of the Lord is made straight in our hearts, so that we become like John the Baptist, who went out into the desert. He prospered there because he learned to rely solely on God and accepted what God provided for his sustenance and for his clothing.
God provides everything for us. He will provide the grace in which we will be clothed. He will provide everything we need to become holy, to become persons of great holiness and devotion as Saint Peter asks us to be, to knock down the mountains and to fill up the valleys. Everything will be provided, provided that we look at God instead of at ourselves, provided that we learn to accept what He gives us and recognize it all as a gift – because it is. God is calling us in the desert of this society to become the greatest saints that the world has ever known, with the exception of the Holy Family. That is the opportunity God is giving to each and every one of us. You, as an individual, have the opportunity to become a great saint. If you lived in a truly Catholic society you would probably become a saint, but living in a desert you have the opportunity to become a great saint, to achieve levels of extraordinary holiness because you are not being brought along in the current of faith, but rather, you have to swim against the current of faithlessness. That is what will make you strong and holy, provided that you look at God and learn to rely on Him for everything.
We need to see what He is doing. We need to listen to His call. He is calling us to be comforted because He has put us in this society to expiate for sin and to grow in holiness, to become saints. That is a pure gift and it should be our pure joy if we are willing, like John the Baptist, to embrace it. Then what people will see is what is truly beautiful within us, and that is Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, there was not anything external that people were attracted to; they saw what was in his heart because internally he did exactly what he was preaching externally: he made straight the path of the Lord in his heart. His heart was wide open and there was nothing in the way – just like out in the desert, nothing but sun and sand – there was nothing standing in the way of the Lord. The same can be true of our hearts. If we open the heart to the Lord, if we make straight the path of the Lord within our hearts, the people will see the Lord. They will be attracted to Him, and they will be drawn, not to us because of anything of ourselves, but they will be drawn to us because they see the Lord working in us, they will hear His message being preached through our lives and through our words. They will be drawn on a straight path that leads them through the desert of this world to the great, beautiful place, the Garden of God, for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.
From the Gospel reading, First Sunday of Advent
by Janet Klasson BSP
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great
glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
I know a Nigerian priest. He has said that in Nigeria, how you say something is just as important as what you say. Once he recounted a story of someone who had confronted him unjustly. He said, "First I stepped back. Then I stepped forward. Then I said what I had to say."
Think about the meaning of his actions. First he was literally taken aback by what the other person said. Stepping back is what you do to avoid a blow. It could be seen as cowardly, but what he did next was full of power and courage. He stepped forward and spoke a word in the strength of truth. He refused to back down from the one who was attacking him. He did not lose ground. He did not lose face. Body language—our posture says so much.
The above Scripture passage contains an example of the Christian's ideal body language: Stand erect and raise your heads... Looking more closely at the verse, notice that our Lord does not say to stand erect and raise your heads only after the Son of Man comes, but to do so when the signs preceding his coming are beginning to happen. For, once the Son of Man comes, there will no longer be any need for hope, since the thing hoped for will have come. Hope belongs to the era of faith in things not seen. And this hope does not depend on circumstances, but on the overriding joy of knowing that the God of infinite power and love dwells within us.
Origen, who died in the third century, has left a teaching that is as pertinent today as ever:
"So if we want God to reign within us, on no account may sin rule in our mortal body but let us mortify our earthly bodies and let us be made fruitful by the Spirit. Then we will be a spiritual garden of Eden for God to walk in. God will rule in us with Christ who will be seated in us on the right hand of God — God, the spiritual power that we pray to receive — until he makes his enemies (who are within us) into his footstool and pours out on us all authority, all power, all strength."
There is much to ponder in this piece, notably the role of penance in the defeat of evil. It is worth noting also that he identifies the enemies of God as the forces within our own hearts. It is sin we must fear more than any earthly calamity. For sin alone can take away our hope of redemption.
By standing erect and raising our heads in spite of our earthly situation we, in the words of Pope John Paul II, become witnesses to hope. The time to be a true witness to hope is when hope is hard work, as at Calvary. Who were the witnesses to hope at Calvary? The Blessed Mother, St. John, Mary Magdalene, and a few others, faithful children of Abraham, who "against hope, believed in hope."
As we begin the holy season of Advent, let us pray with renewed hope and gratitude for the grace of redemption. May our Advent fast, united to the cross of Christ, be an instrument of salvation for ourselves and for all the poor sinners of the world, until he makes all his enemies into his footstool.
Janet Klasson BSP - Divine Mercy Chapter - Canada
From the Pelianito Journal blog (www.pelianito.stblogs.com) October 13, 2009:
Luke 13:20-21 (The Kingdom) is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch of dough was leavened.
"My child, do you see how just a few willing souls can make a great difference in the world? You are working not just for your salvation, but for the salvation of many souls throughout the world. By your prayers and sacrifices you are the leaven that will help souls to 'rise' to new life. Do not discount even the smallest sacrifice, for yeast is made of very small beads, but it expands and has an effect beyond predicting. Pray, fast, trust and be at peace."
Lord, you are generous, merciful, and full of love! I adore you and I thank you for using worthless sinners to accomplish miracles in souls. Jesus I love you!
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - December 2009
"The angel of the Lord said to them: 'Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD
NEWS of GREAT JOY for all the people. Today a SAVIOR has been born.
He is Christ the Lord.'" (Luke 2,10)
Our pastor provided a perfect opening for a follow-up to the previous article on JOY. He said that for those who do not have joy in their hearts, "you can bet your bottom dollar it's because they have too much anxiety." I can vouch for that. There are many things to be anxious about, but only two I wish to mention here. The first is kind of a parenthesis, a thought on 'global anxiety' from a global menace.
Briefly, Pius XI in Quadragessimo Anno (1931) stated: "No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true Socialist." As surely as night follows day, Secularism follows Socialism. Just ask Europe. It's very simple: an earthly savior, the State, takes the place of our Heavenly Savior Jesus Christ in people's hearts. And Secular Socialism tends towards totalitarianism. Socialism via Communism was violently imposed upon its hapless victims. Now people have to "freely" choose it. Some eagerly trade their freedom as children of God for State sponsored "security," no personal virtue required for "salvation." Others are misled by the Father of lies. Either way, pagan doctrines are imposed upon the people, unlike Christianity freely accepted. The vehicle for "change" is a real or phony "crisis." As people of faith, we must be able to discern good from evil, what's real from what is artificially created for political purposes.
Two examples from a global Socialist entity: the United Nations. Anyone who wishes to be subject to One World Government, consider the following. In order to hype the UN as the world's savior, the world needs to be saved from something. Exhibit A: Global Warming. The recent release of e-mails from GW advocates is not a smoking gun; it's a mushroom cloud (as in nuclear explosion)! It proves they have altered climate data, destroyed records, suppressed dissent, and engaged in a massive conspiracy to make it appear that there is a "consensus" on man-caused global warming. And it was all started and directed by the UN's IPCC: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Concoctions...
Exhibit B: H1N1 "Pandemic." The swine flu has been around since 1976, and we are only experiencing the latest version. Remember SARS? Another UN mountain manufactured from a molehill. In order to get the swine flu declared a pandemic, the UN had to CHANGE THE DEFINITION of PANDEMIC! The previous, honest definition was: "A simultaneous worldwide epidemic with enormous numbers of illness and death." H1N1, the swine flu, didn't approach that plateau. Hence a new UN definition: "Pandemics can be mild or severe in the illness and death they cause, and the severity of the pandemic can change over the course of the pandemic." Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, SHAME ON ME! Our global anxiety is being reduced as people are finally becoming aware of such massive fraud and deceit.
Followers of our Savior already have a GLOBAL AUTHORITY: GOD! Can't be more global, interplanetary, or universe-al than that! And we can TRUST this Authority to TELL THE TRUTH which will set us free. If mankind is responsible for a crisis, it's not global warming, but ORIGINAL SIN. We don't need a corrupt UN to re-distribute our hard-earned wealth, but a faithful Jesus to re-distribute His hard-earned Grace! And that's the second anxiety: personal sin, and failure to TRUST JESUS to lift this poor sinner out of the muck and into His good graces. But just writing these two articles on joy has helped me look forward to Advent, to a time of personal conversion. And as eternity beckons, a new attitude emerges.
A holy priest once said that a dedicated disciple of Jesus Christ must have an APOSTOLATE OF JOY. Why are we not consumed with the thought of manifesting our joy in the Lord? Perhaps we need a more acute awareness of the incredible gift of a loving relationship a Loving Savior has freely offered us. It's hard for an "activist" to lay down the call to arms, and bask in the presence of the Lord. Even St. Francis had a difficult time as his followers became very numerous, and he was only completely free to rejoice in the Lord AFTER he submitted the governance of "his" Order to Jesus. He was so worked up about the direction "his" friars were taking, abandoning the utter simplicity of the early years of the friars minor. It had to be, of course. Buildings had to be built instead of huts. Higher education had to be sought for some friars to lay the foundation for the future of the Order. There's no way the original way of life of complete simplicity of St. Francis and his early disciples could have continued forever. So Francis had to surrender the governance of the friars minor to another as a means of removing the frustration he had at the thought of his friars heading off in the wrong direction, a situation he was helpless in preventing. We've all had that feeling – of helplessness to prevent some catastrophe. But it was in his acceptance of the will of God that Francis found peace, and could once again participate fully in the apostolate of Joy.
So too we can learn from him, as he learned from Jesus Himself through His Agony in the Garden, how to accept the will of God no matter how painful. Plans are made, wonderful plans that will change the world. They don't work, nothing works, everything falls apart. There is opposition from all sides, we feel abandoned. We had such fervent desires to do good, desires that God alone knew. Yet God allowed them to fail. This seems to be part of the human condition. It takes a lot of convincing on the part of God that many times our plans are not part of His plan for us. We can be filled with enthusiasm when we start out on the path of virtue, in our first fervor. It's a wonderful time of life, but it seldom lasts long. I think this is a point where many fall away, when the going gets tough, and some sort of depression sets in. We are forced to realize: am I following my own path, or God's path? We love to do our own thing, but follow someone else with equal enthusiasm, even God? No, I'm going to register my displeasure one way or the other to that very notion. What a pity. How difficult to overcome self-will.
We have to believe that God wants our happiness EVEN MORE THAN WE DO! Imagine what would happen to us if we could only grasp that reality, and live it in our daily life. Not: let's see, what do I want to do today? But: Lord, what do YOU want me to do today? Speaking for myself, there is a continual conflict between these two forces. But without a doubt, true happiness comes with a complete surrender to God's will, and knowing we are faithful instruments in the hands of our Lord and Master.
There came a time when even reading the Sacred Scriptures was not necessary for St. Francis, so completely had he become the perfect image of Jesus. Thomas of Celano relates that a brother urged Francis to get some relief from his pain: "Father, you have always sought refuge in the Scriptures, and they have always given you remedies for your pains. I pray you to have something read to you now from the prophets; perhaps your spirit will rejoice in the Lord." St. Francis replied: "It is good to read the testimonies of Scripture; it is good to seek the Lord our God in them. As for me, however, I have already made so much of Scripture MY OWN, that I have more than enough to meditate on and revolve in my mind. I need no more, son; I KNOW CHRIST, THE POOR CRUCIFIED ONE." Celano, Ch.71, 2nd Life.
John the Apostle tells us the significance of this knowledge. "As the Father loves Me, so I also love you. REMAIN IN MY LOVE. If you keep My commandments, YOU WILL remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and remain in His love. I have told you this so that MY JOY MIGHT BE IN YOU, and YOUR JOY MIGHT BE COMPLETE." John 15
One cannot get blood out of a turnip, nor produce joy out of nothing. We need to know, love, and serve God faithfully. Francis KNEW THE LORD so well by making the Word of God HIS OWN, he could witness to: True Joy of Spirit (Chapter 88, Celano). "St. Francis maintained that the safest remedy against the thousand snares and wiles of the enemy is spiritual joy. For he would say: 'Then the devil rejoices most when he can snatch away spiritual joy from a servant of God. He carries dust so that he can throw it into even the tiniest chinks of conscience and soil the candor of mind and purity of life. But when spiritual joy fills hearts, the serpent throws off his deadly poison in vain. The devils cannot harm the servant of Christ when they see he is filled with holy joy. When, however the soul is wretched, desolate, and filled with sorrow, it is easily overwhelmed by its sorrow or else it turns to vain enjoyments.'
The saint, therefore, made it a point to keep himself in joy of heart, and to preserve the unction of the Spirit and the oil of gladness. He avoided with the greatest care the miserable illness of dejection, so that if he felt it creeping over his mind even a little, he would have recourse very quickly to prayer. For he would say: 'If the servant of God, as may happen, is disturbed in any way, he should rise immediately to pray, and he should remain in the Presence of the Heavenly Father until He "RESTORES UNTO HIM THE JOY OF SALVATION.'" Ps. 51, 14.
Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus, THE GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY!
Paul Beery BSP - Morning Star Chapter - Minnesota
St. Francis and the Christmas Creche - FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
What is the origin of the Nativity Scene (creche)?
The story of the origin of the Christmas creche rests with the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi. In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Greccio to celebrate Christmas. Greccio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.
St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his Life of St. Francis of Assisi tells the story the best: It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Greccio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff.
Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem.
A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Greccio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvellously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth.
For example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies and miracles.
Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY for all the people. Today a SAVIOR has been born. He is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2, 10)
Nativity, with the Virgin Mary and St Joseph
Painted by Lorenzo Lotto in 1523
Located in Washington DC, National Gallery
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
email@example.com. 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!