Dear Brothers and Sisters, may the Lord give you peace! A few years ago, my parish merged with another local parish and we got a new pastor. Shortly after the merger, Labor Day weekend was upon us. Labor Day has several meanings – the “un”official end to summer, the last of the summer barbecues, the end of wearing white shoes and carrying a white purse – OK, I’m showing my age on that one! Having been married to a trucker/shop steward/union man, I also know that in the early 19th century, the Trade Unions and Labor movements asked to have a day set aside to celebrate labor. It’s easy to lose that meaning when we are enjoying that last grilled hot dog of the season.
That first Labor Day with the new pastor, changed my outlook completely. After the homily, he asked everyone attending Mass to come forward as they would when receiving Communion. When each of us approached Father, he asked that we stretch out our hands and he anointed them. He blessed the work of our hands for the coming year. It was very moving and of course, made you think.
What work would I do for the Lord in the coming year? How can I give that blessing away? And more than that, will I remember that my hands have been blessed to the Lord……..when I’m angry and gesturing at someone; when I’m throwing something out that could be recycled, when I sit on my hands as I’m being asked to accept a nomination?
This Labor Day, consider blessing your own hands to the Lord for the coming year. Ask St. Francis how your hands can be used to do Franciscan work and then be willing to listen! As in the picture above, remember one hand does not complete the picture.
At one time a tempted brother asked Francis to pray for him, the holy man said: Believe me, son, I believe you are more a servant of God because of this. No one, he said, should consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptations and tribulations… – We must work for peace and pray for peace.
A temptation overcome is like a ring which the Lord betroths the soul of his servant. Many flatter themselves over their many years of merit and rejoice at never having suffered any temptations. But sheer fright would knock them out before a battle even started. So they should know that the Lord has kept in kind their weakness of spirit. Hard fights are rarely fought except by those with the greatest strength. – Peace is above all a gift of God: it requires prayer.
And another brother was vexed for a long time by a temptation of the spirit, which is worse and more subtle that the prompting of the flesh. He came to Saint Francis … with bitter tears … The saint, however, realized that he was tormented by wicked spirits. I command, he said, from this moment stop assailing my brother. Immediately the brother became free. – The soul that lives in habitual contact with God … knows how to guard without difficult against the temptation of particularism and opposition, which create the risk of painful divisions.
Tempted himself, he learned to suffer with those who were sometimes tempted. For at times he endured a very great temptation of the flesh … At another time a very serious temptation of spirit came upon him … because of it he was filled with anguish and sorrow … He was under attack in this way for several years … – The Eucharist is placed at the center of the life of the great human family.
One day while praying at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, he heard in spirit a voice: Francis, if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would tell the mountain to move from here, and it would move … The mountain is your temptation. And (Francis) said, sobbing: Lord, be it done to me as you have said. At once, the whole temptation was driven away, he was set free. – The Eucharist is the great instrument for bringing men closer to one another.
He used to tell (his brothers): As you announce peace with your mouth, may you keep it in your heart, thus no one will be provoked to anger or scandal, but rather to kindness and gentleness. For we have been called to this: to cure the wounded, to bind up the broken, and to recall the erring. Many who seem to us to be members of the devil, will yet be disciples of Christ. – God becomes converted to us through the Cross of Christ.
To his brothers he would speak compassionately, not as a judge, but as a father to his children and a doctor to the sick … Great was his compassion toward the sick and great his concern for their needs … He was truly endowed with outstanding discernment and the grace of simplicity, so that with a true dove-like simplicity, he possessed the prudence of a serpent. – Let us open ourselves to God who wants to open himself to us.
He depended on the divine foresight according to the word he spoke to the Lord Pope who argued that it was difficult to live without possessions. My Lord, I trust in my Lord Jesus Christ. Since He has promised to give us life and glory in heaven, he will not deprive us of our bodily necessities when we need them on earth. – Conversion is before all else acceptance … (of) God in all the riches of his ‘conversion’ toward man.
He was well aware that the Lord took care of him even in the smallest matters … He did not want to be involved with the world through temporal things. – Christ says to the suffering person: ‘Come follow me!’
He responded (to the Bishop of Assisi regarding possessing nothing): Lord, if we had any possessions, we would need to have arms to protect them, because they cause many disputes and lawsuits. Possessions usually impede the love of God and neighbor. – The Church is built up through communion with the Son of God.
He would frequently say: As far as the brothers will withdraw from poverty, that far will the world withdraw from them. They owe the world an example, and the world owes the food they need. When the brothers withdraw good example, the world withdraws from them its support. – The most precious gift the Church can offer today’s disoriented and disquieted world is to form Christians who are securely and humbly joyous in their faith.
He wanted the brothers to be content with a few things, and not to possess these few things, whether places or things, as their own. He wanted to own nothing so that he could possess everything more fully in the Lord. – The Church is realized in the Sacrifice of Christ.
With the greatest zeal he cultivated poverty’s companion, the virtue of humility. Because of this he wanted the brothers to be clothed in a humble habit, girt with a rope, to be called Lesser Brothers, and never to exalted in this world. – Each of us must regard our own lives and the history of humanity in a certain way with the eyes of Mary.
Blessed Dominic … clung to Blessed Francis by such devotion that he most devotedly wore under is inner tunic a cord which he had given him, and said that he wished that Francis’ religion and his own could be one, and stated that he should be imitated for his holiness by other religious. – Everyone welcomes within himself the Word of God.
(Regarding the humility and charity between the two Fathers, the passage continues) Oh, how this humility and mutual charity of their Fathers must be imitated by their sons! Truly, it would be profitable to them and to God’s Church. – Let the soul of Mary be in everyone to magnify the Lord (St. Ambrose).
(Saint Francis) used to say: We have been sent to help clerics for the salvation of souls so that we may make up whatever may be lacking in them. Each shall receive a reward, not on account of authority, but because of the work done. Know then, brothers, that the good of souls is what pleases God most … – Let the spirit of Mary be in everyone to exult in the Lord (St. Ambrose).
As he thought humbly of himself, he was, in his own eyes, a great sinner, while actually he was in every was a mirror of holiness, and also a virgin in the flesh, as he revealed to that very holy man, Brother Leo, his confessor, and then disclosed to the General Minister. – If, according to the flesh, only one is the mother of Christ, according to the faith all souls generate Christ for everyone welcomes within him the Word of God. (St. Ambrose)
Virginal purity was fitting for flesh adorned with the sacred stigmata. If some ordinary people of the world, by the working of grace and nature, preserve the integrity of the flesh even to old age, who would wonder that Francis preserved it, when God was disposed to exalt him with such a grace? – Procreation is rooted in creation.
The holy man always insisted on progress in doing good, remembering that the lukewarm, who do not apply themselves constantly to some work, would be quickly vomited out of the Lord’s mouth. No idler could appear in his presence without feeling the sharp bite of his criticism. – If you really accept the loves that comes from Christ, it will lead you to God.
He wished his brothers to apply themselves always to prayer or to some good work … The saint used to speak against the disease of acedia: When a servant of God gets disturbed about something, as often happens, he must get up at once to pray and remain before the Most High Father until he gives back to him the joy of his salvation. – Whatever you make of your life, make sure that it is a reflection of Christ’s love.
(St. Francis commented on a passage from Ezekiel) A servant of God should be burning with life and holiness so brightly, that by the light of example and the tongue of his conduct, he will rebuke all the wicked. In that way, the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation will proclaim their wickedness to all of them. – In everything that you do, remember that Christ calls you, in one way or another, to a service of love.
The saint was brilliant with great power in expelling demons and the grace of healing … Through the sign of the cross he gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, and healed various illnesses. – There is need of a coherent and courageous testimony of faith.
The Lord said to (a brother who prayed 50 psalms a day that the Lord would guard him from the pains of purgatory): Work confidently and do penance, for while I was in the world, I always labored. Let us, therefore, follow Christ and Saint Francis in labor, that we may be joined to them in rest. The industrious Lord does not love a lazy servant. – We must first of all abandon the worldly and pagan mentality.
The Three Orders
Francis’ teaching produced fruit especially in the three Orders that he established. The first is the Order of Lesser Brothers whose purpose is to serve the Lord according to the Gospel in poverty and humility, and to preach penance … this is acceptable to God … – We must transform the worldly mentality into the mentality of Christ.
(The emperor Jean died in the habit of the Order as God’s answer to his earnest prayer) O my most sweet Lord, Jesus Christ, would that I who have lived elegantly in the pomp of the world, clothed in priceless garments, could, as a truly poor and humble man, follow you, who are poor and humble, by seeking alms in this habit with a sack hanging from my neck. – We must accept the whole message of Christ without reductions of convenience and in accord with his example.
We should not be silent in our praise for Christ who exalted the humble. – (Rely on the action of grace) which can give to each of us the generosity to accept the responsibility for our own actions in terms of eternity and for the good of society.
The second Order founded by blessed Francis is that of virgins and continent women, whose proposal is to serve God in the enclosure, in perpetual silence, and in mortifying the flesh. The first member of this Order was the blessed Clare, a most devout disciple of blessed Francis. – To be a Christian means to be a witness to Christ.
The Third Order is of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, shared by clerics, laity, virgins, widows, and married couples. Their purpose is to live uprightly in their own homes, to devote their attention to works of piety, and to flee the world’s allurements. – Without God, what remains of human beings!?
From the beginning a brother was assigned to them as minister, but now, in each region, they are released to their ministers, but who, as confreres begotten by the same father, are still encouraged by the brothers with counsel and assistance. – We live in times when God is forgotten … a world deprived of God … a world snatched away from its Creator.
The saint was busy giving to every class of people a way of penance and salvation. One time when a parish priest told him he wanted to be his brothers while still retaining the church, after he gave him a way of living and acting, he is said to have told him that each year, when the income of the church had been collected, he should give for God whatever was left from the preceding year. – The need to proclaim God is a sign peculiar to the times in which we live. If we separate ourselves from the Creator and cancel God, what remains of the creature?
St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454 fax: (302) 798-3360 website: skdsfo email: email@example.com
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you His peace!
We recognize ourselves in the Church’s prayers for God’s People who journey in time towards eternal life. We pray for ourselves and especially for the one whom the Eternal Father has appointed Father and Shepherd of Christ’s Family, Vicar of Christ Jesus, and voice of the Spirit’s prompting for God’s People. Many, down through the ages, like our Holy Father today, stand in the waters of life’s calm as well as turbulent currents, and actively participate in all our experiences encouraging, supporting, interceding for us. They share in the ministry of Jesus – Jeshua of Nazareth, God’s Son and our Savior.
Moses, the great leader of Israel, a nation in formation, was called to eternity before Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. He saw the Land from a distance. He appointed Joshua, his faithful assistant, as his successor and leader of the People of God. Joshua’s name means the Lord is salvation, and he truly was a saving presence that directed by his example as well as by his words. God worked wonders through Joshua, and the People were reaffirmed in their faith and encouraged in confronting the continued challenges they had to face to achieve the ultimate goal set for them by God. In the Church, we too have “Joshuas” whom the Lord calls to continue a work of re-affirmation and encouragement for all God’s People in the universal call and mission to holiness.
Our Seraphic Father was a living example of the mission and ministry of Jesus. Like Joshua, he entered the calm and turbulent waters of the Church and society of his century. He stood in those waters like the levites in Moses’ time. He was bearer of the Ark of the New Covenant, the Gospel of Jesus the Lord, bearing within himself and eventually on his body, the image of the One Whose voice he heard and Whose life he sought to live. He served as Deacon of the Church and founding Father and Brother of those who took up the challenge he accepted that they might follow in his steps and stand in the turbulent waters of their times for all to pass through them securely. In the overwhelming waters of his day – religious and philosophical ideologies, seductive allurements of a newly-forming consumer society, moral relativism lacking basic values or principles that flow from God’s law, and so much more – St. Francis stood out as a catalyst and transforming presence. He was a “Gospel Activist”. His presence, prayer, and power of God working through him and his brothers and sisters who accepted the Gospel challenge he was called to live, stemmed the tide that would have otherwise destroyed so many souls. The “Gospel activism” of love and mercy were a hallmark of the Franciscan fraternity then, just as it is still expected of us today, we who are the spiritual descendants of the Poverello.
The first obstacle the freed slaves of Egypt had to face was the Red Sea. Moses split the Sea and the Israelites passed on dry land. But, having passed through the Red Sea, the People wandered in the desert for forty years. Finally, as they approached the Promised Land, another barrier lay before them. It had to be overcome before they could enter their new and definitive home as free children of the One Great God. The success of their endeavor depended on overcoming this obstacle. Knowledge of the great wonders God worked so His People could achieve their goal would reach the neighboring towns and cities. All would know that Israel was back in Canaan after more than four centuries of exile and slavery. Israel was there to stay in fulfillment of God’s Promise. But the obstacle had to be overcome first.
The second obstacle was the Jordan River. Like the Red Sea of forty years before, the River was the line of demarcation between hopeful dreams and fulfillment. They had to face the present challenge and meet it head on. Following the command of the Lord God of Israel, Joshua commanded the priests of the People who were walking before Israel to come to a halt at the edge of the Jordan River. Then, he said: The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth will precede you into the Jordan. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Lord…touch the water of the Jordan, it will cease to flow… No sooner had the priestly bearers of the Ark waded into the waters,…then the waters flowing from upstream halted…while those flowing downstream…disappeared entirely. Thus the people crossed … the priests carrying the Ark remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan …(and) remained in the bed of the Jordan until everything had been done that the Lord had commanded Joshua to tell the People. (Cfr. Joshua 3; 4: 1-10). Their mission was to stand firm until all the people had crossed over.
God took the initiative to save His People and it was God Who promised to get them to its fulfillment. God keeps His word, but, since God gives us life without our help but will not save us without our cooperation, we must do our part as well. The People were assembled with the Promised Land just within their reach, across the Jordan. Thousands of people ready, after forty years of hope-filled wandering through the desert, to settle down. Many experienced and hardened warriors, defenders of Israel from the enemy nations that assailed them during their desert trek, dreamt of enjoying a quiet and productive home and family life without having to put their lives on the line every day to protect Israel from unfriendly peoples seeking their destruction. There were the families dreaming of stability for their children and for a plot of land they could cultivate to make the desert flourish. Then there were the youth – young men and women – who had known only a nomadic life of uncertainty and looked forward to all the opportunities that the young hope for in a more structured life: security, family, friendship, love, and all the rest. Nothing happened! There was one thing that had to be done! They had to cross the Jordan! How often in life do we stand and look ahead of us desiring what is within our reach, but are always hesitant or afraid to take the step and pass through the obstacle to the other side.
It was not until the priests carrying the Ark got their feet wet that the Jordan stopped in its course. Until those who were the shepherds and leaders of Israel, carrying the sign of the very presence of God with them, entered the waters first, nothing happened. They had to get their feet wet! This act showed Israel that they believed with their lives that God was with them, and their faith in His Promise would make the miracle happen. And it did! Our lives have so many Jordan Rivers that we have to wade through at low tide with difficulty, or maybe, because we cannot fight the strong currents of a raging river, need someone who can help us cross over on dry ground in the more demanding and challenging times. Each experience requires an act of faith and trust that God will again work His miracle for us. All we have to do is trust and “get our feet wet”. And, there is always a Joshua present to encourage us and indicate the way.
Human beings have conquered the sky and probed the depths of space. Nevertheless, there are many problems which endanger our existence: pollution, natural disasters, tragedies caused by human error, attempts on human life and freedom, attacks against the family, social injustice, intolerance due to prejudice of any kind (race, color, religious belief, culture, ideology, and the like). Like the waters of the Red Sea or the Jordan River, they threaten to overwhelm us and even destroy us, unless someone continues to hold back the waters. Jesus came to give meaning to life and strength to all who would accept to “Live Jesus” and be a counter-cultural prophetic presence in the world of today. Living the Gospel, they live the example of Jesus and they stand in the river bed for us all to pass safely. We Franciscans are called to be that “counter-cultural presence”.
St. Francis of Assisi was a living example of Gospel love. As Joshua continued the mission of Moses as leader and protector of Israel, the Poverello was imprinted with the marks of Jesus and commissioned with His Spirit to stand with and for the People. St. Francis was a leader and protector in our troubled world. Chosen from among them, he instilled hope in those who accepted his message of “Pax et Bonum” (Peace and Good) and encouraged all to wade into the waters of everyday demands, and to trust in God’s powerful Providence and his loving care and protection. He ardently loved everyone. He often wept, we are told, because “Love was not loved”. Whether with the lepers, Assisians, Turks, or any of God’s children and creatures, the greatest anguish and burning desire was to “Restore all things in Christ” (motto of St. Pius X).
We are the Spiritual Children of the Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi. He was a man of action as well as of prayer. His prayer made him aware of the needs of his sisters and brothers in the world, and he brought their needs back to his prayer. He lived a “virtuous circle” that continually went from earth to heaven and back. His prayer was concrete and effective. Whether it transformed interiorly or produced results exteriorly, St. Francis was a man always “in the thick of things”.
As Franciscans we consider it an honor to associate ourselves with his memory. We speak of him and can even speak and teach about him. We pray to him. We call on his powerful intercession in our needs. How many “things” do we try to do as fraternities or individuals to make the name and spirit of St. Francis of Assisi known and loved! But do we follow his example? Are we willing to take the step that enters the waters of uncertainty each day and trust in Divine Providence? Are we willing to forget ourselves for the sake of another and give some of our time, talents or even treasure to make someone in need realize that they are not alone?
The priests in the Jordan River not only got their feet wet so the waters would separate for Israel to pass through, but they also stayed in the river bed until everyone had passed over safely. Are we willing to witness our faith and trust in God to encourage others to do the same, especially those whose faith may be uncertain? The Poverello was even willing to risk death at the hands of the Turks for the sake of God’s glory and the good of souls. Are we willing to accept anything from God for the sake of His glory and the salvation of even one soul? Do we remember that St. Francis shared in the suffering of Christ in a concrete way his entire religious life?! Just remember that the Cross was imprinted on his heart when the Crucifix spoke to him at San Damiano years before it was visibly imprinted on his body at La Verna two years before his passage into eternity. As sons and daughters of St. Francis, have we allowed that spirit to take over our lives?
As we celebrate the Feast of the Impression of the Sacred Stigmata of the Wounds of Jesus on the body of our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi this month, September 17, let us remember that “words come cheap”, but a true sign of admiration and veneration is imitation. Let us imitate our Father’s love and open our hearts and lives to one another. We must not forget that the person who seems not to deserve to be loved is precisely the one who needs to be loved. Often that love is shown when we are willing to enter the rough waters that endanger them so they might pass safely.
May God bless you. May Our Lady guide, guard, and protect you. And may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi watch over each one of us, his Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
Brothers and Sisters,
Peace be with you!
One of the talks presented at the Q was entitled Violence and Peacemaking given by Fr. Dan Horan O.F.M. I found it interesting that he used the Canticle of Brother Sun telling us that this was the journey of Francis’ life in creating the Canticle.
Francis dreamed of being a knight, but then became a prisoner of war. His transformation then took the path he chose to live, “the Gospel life” sound familiar? Father Dan noted “how can humans be true to themselves and get beyond the “original sin” of not being what God wants us to be. It is the non-violence & peacemaking that is the heart of the Franciscan Tradition.
Once a person recognizes the “divine dignity” of every created being he or she has a responsibility to give glory to God by respecting, caring, promoting and a sense of “being in this together” that life is one and each of us brings a special contribution.
Saint Francis Canticle is not just a flowery song about how we should live with nature. It is a challenge to revise our entire way of living. Our rule dictates that we are to be instruments of peace. We do not think like the world in its poor example but to live in peace. This is our call as Franciscans and sons and daughters of God. We are to be brother and sister to one another and part of a family that embraces all creation.
We can compare the struggles of life to Blessed Theresa of Calcutta who will be canonized on September 4th. In her letters that were written we read that she went through such darkness in her life and so even in all of the turmoil she like our Father Saint Francis became the mercy of God which illuminated the whole world radiating God’s love. “Let there be peace on earth”……..and let it begin with me.
“Jesus, teach me to choose peace rather than conflict.”
May the Lord give you his peace!! Your sister in Christ, Rose
(Resources: Fr. Dan Horan O.F.M., National Catholic Register and Rosie)
I bend my knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
so that, through the prayers and merits of the
holy and glorious Virgin Mary, His Mother,
and of our most blessed father Francis and of all the saints,
the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning,
may give increase and may also give final perseverance.
(The Testament of St. Clare of Assisi)
The following are excerpts taken from early documents that speak of St. Clare of Assisi.
from the Acts of the Process of Canonization (1st and 2nd Witnesses).
Daily reflections are taken from various sources
Saint Clare, while that holy woman was in the world…was considered by all who knew her to be a person of great honesty and of very good life; and she was intent upon and occupied with works of piety. (1st Witness) – The danger of indifference demands we do battle with triteness, shallowness, and dullness, and that we have to resist and begin to go in the other direction.
Saint Clare began the Order that is now at San Damiano through the admonition of Saint Francis. She entered it as a virgin, and always remained such a virgin. (1st Witness) – Truly good people are always unconscious of their goodness.
Lady Clare very much loved the poor, and all the citizens held her in great veneration because of her good manner of life. (1stWitness) – When we compare ourselves with other people, we seem good; when we compare ourselves with God, we are nothing.
After Saint Clare had been in the Order, at the prayers and insistence of Saint Francis, who almost forced her, she accepted the direction and government of the sisters. (1st Witness) – Love quickly decays. Has our love grown cold?
The blessed mother (Saint Clare) kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences, that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. (1st Witness) – The closer we get to Christ, the less certain we are of any merit of our own.
Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head…She was so very strict in her food that the sisters marveled at how her body survived. (1st Witness) – The older we get, the better we see ourselves.
Blessed Clare fasted much of the time. Three days of the week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, she did not eat anything…Saint Francis together with the bishop of Assisi commanded her to eat on those days at least a half a roll of bread… (1st Witness) – The psychology of mediocrity seeks rather to ease the problem than cure it.
When she came from prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters always speaking the words of God Who was always in her mouth, so much so that she did not want to speak or hear of vanities. (1st Witness) – Life had to be forfeited for our sins, and no life is more precious than that of God who became man. His blood … paid the infinite price.
When she (Saint Clare) commanded her sisters to do something, she did so with great fear and humility and more often than not she wished to do what she had commanded the others. (1st Witness) – Even if we claim not to believe, we still experience the moral effects of guilt.
When she was sick that she could not get up from bed, she had herself raised to sit up and be supported with some cushions…She spun thread so that, from her work, she made corporals and altar linens for almost all the churches of the plains and hills of Assisi. (1st Witness) – The great sin of the human race is rebellion. We are rebels against God.
The blessed mother was humble, kind, and loving to her sisters, and had compassion for the sick. (1st Witness) – We need to resolve to change, because when we fall into a pattern of ordinariness, we are loath to change.
While she was healthy, she (Saint Clare) served them and washed their feet and gave them water with her own hands. Sometime she washed the mattresses of the sick. (1st Witness) – You will always know the dark days of the Church (and our own) when there is a walking away from the cross of Christ.
She particularly loved poverty, but she could never be persuaded to desire anything for herself, or to receive any possession for herself or the monastery. (1st Witness) – There is no such thing as capturing the passing glory. You have to go down the hill and climb the hill of Calvary to come to perfect glory.
Lady Clare was as careful about the regular observance of her Order and the government of the sisters as someone might be in safeguarding his temporal treasure. (1st Witness) – The modern world is very fond of denying responsibility; it began in Eden. The denial of responsibility stops at the cross of Christ.
When five sisters were sick in the monastery, Saint Clare made the sign of the cross with her own hand over them and all of them were immediately cured. (1st Witness) – The Cross without Christ is tyranny; Christ without the Cross is a lie.
Lady Clare, former abbess of the monastery of San Damiano, had marvelous humility and so looked down on herself … that those tasks which she knew were more degrading she herself performed. (2nd Witness) – Like vines, we must be pruned by the gardener, that we might be more fruitful.
She (St. Clare) was eighteen years old or so (when she entered religious life)…She was a virgin in spirit and in body and held in great veneration by all who knew her even before she entered religion…because of her great honesty, kindness, and humility. (2ndWitness) – After we have embraced discipline, then we will be prepared to change others.
She was also so severe toward her body that she was content with only one tunic of ‘lazzo’ (i.e. home-spun cloth made of inferior wool and used by the country folk) and one mantle. (2nd Witness) – Softness of character comes about when we desire to accommodate ourselves to the world, shrinking away from sacrifice, self-denial.
If she (St. Clare) ever saw that the tunic of another of the sisters was worse than what she was wearing, she took it from her for herself and gave the better one to that sisters. (2nd Witness) – The Lord heals, but not always. There will not be a complete healing until the whole cosmos is renewed.
Clare at one time had a certain shirt made of boar’s hide. She wore it secretly under her woolen tunic with the skin and its bristles close to her skin. (2nd Witness) – Christ solved pain by making it a condition of life. He conquered pain by using it as a means of attaining glory.
She used such rough haircloths and shirts for herself, but was very merciful to the sisters who could not endure such harshness, and willingly gave them consolation. (2nd Witness) – God chooses us not for what we are, but for what God knows we can become.
Blessed Clare, before she was sick, practiced great abstinence: the greater Lent, of Saint Martin, she always fasted on bread and water, except on Sundays when she drank a little wine when there was some. (2nd Witness) – Love knows no limits.
At about midnight she woke the sisters with certain signs in silence to praise God. She lit the lamps in the church and frequently rang the bells for Matins. Those sisters who did not rise at the sound of the bell she called with her signs. (2nd Witness) – Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.
Her speech was always about the things of God. She did not wish to talk about worldly things or for the sisters to remember these things. (2nd Witness) – The crucifix is my autobiography. The blood is the ink. The nails the pen. The skin the parchment. On every line of that body I can trace my life.
If it happened at times that some worldly person did something contrary to God, astonishingly she wept, reproached such a person, and exhorted that one anxiously to turn to penance. (2nd Witness) – Instead of a question of superiority or inferiority (in the Church and in fraternity) it is a question of the different roles we fulfill.
Lady Clare frequently confessed, and, with great devotion and fear, frequently received the holy sacrament of the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, trembling all over as she did so. (2nd Witness) – We are all thieves. We cheat God in our lives; we cheat Him in our worship; we cheat Him in our relationships with others. In us Jesus is reputed among the wicked.
Concerning the corporals made from her spinning…she had paper boxes lined with silk made to hold them and had them blessed by the bishop. (2nd Witness) – Scripture never speaks of reconciliation except through the death of Christ. We are saved by the cross and resurrection.
(One sister) had lost her voice so that she was barely able to speak even softly. She had a vision on the night of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in which Lady Clare, while making the sign of the cross with her hand over her, cured her. It was done in such a way that on the same day she was cured since she did make the sign of the cross over her. (2nd Witness) – Peter and Judas both betrayed Jesus and both repented. One repented to the Lord and the other repented to himself. One lived in hope and the other died in despair.
A certain brother of the Order of Friars Minor, Stephen, was mentally ill. Saint Francis sent him to the monastery of San Damiano, so Saint Clare would make the sign of the cross over him. After she had done this, the brother went to sleep…Upon waking, he ate a little and then departed cured. (2nd Witness) – In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord suffered not so much from pain, as from evil.
When certain Saracens scaled the wall and climbed down into the part within the cloister of San Damiano, holy mother Saint Clare, then seriously ill, got up from her bed, called her sisters, comforting them not to be afraid. After she prayed, the Lord delivered the monastery and the sisters from the enemy. Those Saracens, who had already entered, departed. (2nd Witness) – The sufferings of our blessed Lord were finished in Him as the head of the church, but they are not finished in his body (the Church – us).
Through the virtues and grace that God had placed in her, all who knew her considered her a saint. She especially had a great love of poverty. Neither Pope Gregory nor the Bishop of Ostia could make her consent to receive any possessions. (2nd Witness) – Nothing gives us so much understanding of the love of God, the sacrificial love, as God coming down to this world from heavenly headquarters and saying: ‘I will take the pain as my own’…This is the agape love of Christianity.
St. Katherine Drexel Regional Fraternity
Regional Spiritual Assistant
St. Francis of Assisi Friary
1901 Prior Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19809
tel: (302) 798-1454 fax: (302) 798-3360 website: skdsfo email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Sisters and Brothers in St. Francis,
The Lord give you his peace!
For centuries the Catholic Christian world has celebrated the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary body and soul into heaven. This crowning moment in Her life was never really disputed by most Christians before the rise of Protestantism. As time moves on, the world and its values often clouds the vision of our minds and hearts. As the modern world places humanity at the center rather than God, society takes a different view of life and basic human values. Technology has become the ‘god’ for many, a practical atheism if not a theoretical one. Materialism, commercialism, hedonism, just to mention a few ‘isms’ of our day, have sunk their roots deep into the human experience and often seduce the heart and soul urging us to confide in the passing things of time rather than in the lasting gifts of eternity. The cult of the body has dominated our society for years. Sixty years ago, recognizing these serious dangers, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven, November 1st, 1950, amidst a gathering of thousands in St. Peter’s Basilica. This proclamation was the crowning recognition of the simple Maiden of Nazareth, Whose unconditional faith opened Her life to God’s will, and the world to salvation.
The story of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is beautifully told in the Apocrypha (texts not inserted among the books of Sacred Scripture). The story lets us see how the early Church truly loved Mary as the highest honor of our race. It is no wonder that so many saints have had a particular and deep love and filial devotion for Our Lady. Our Seraphic Father St. Francis and Holy Mother St. Clare were devoted children of this Most Holy of Mothers, Whose love envelopes us with Her protective mantle. Close to Her Immaculate Heart, Her children feel secure from harm and assured of an Advocate almighty by intercession with God.
Saint Francis loved Christ and was deeply struck by the humility of the Incarnation and the love of His Passion. He wanted to conform himself totally to Christ, so that Christ would be the true foundation of his life. This love for Christ inevitably led him to a profound love for Mary, the Mother of the Lord. In fact, as Celano states: He embraced the Mother of Jesus with inexpressible love, since She made the Lord of Majesty a brother to us. He honored Her with his own Praises, poured out prayers to Her, and offered Her his love in a way that no human tongue can express. But what gives us greatest joy is that he appointed Her the Advocate of the Order, and placed under Her wings the sons to be left behind, that She might protect and cherish them to the end. (2 Celano, chpt.150) Love for Our Lady moved him to imitate Her virtues. He told his friars that it is the example of Christ and His Most Holy Mother that we follow in choosing the way of true poverty. (Legend of Perugia, #3)
St. Francis wanted this basic element of his spirituality to be the same basis for the spirituality of St. Clare and her religious family. Thus an essential element of the life of St. Clare and her sisters is the love and devotion they have for the Mother of Jesus, whom St. Clare considers their true Mother. The love of St. Clare for Mary is apparent from the first moment of her consecration to God. Once she abandoned her home, city and family, she fled to Saint Mary of the Portiuncula (Our Lady of the Angels), where the brothers, who were waiting for her in prayer before the little altar in that chapel, received St. Clare with lighted torches. (Life, #8). It was here that St. Francis cut her hair before the altar, in the Church of the Virgin Mary (Process, #12), and it was here that the humble handmaid was wed to Christ (Life, #8) Saint Mary of the Portiuncula is that famous place where the new throng of the poor began, guided by Francis: thus it appears clearly that the Mother of mercy gave birth to both Orders in Her own dwelling place. (Life, #8)
St. Clare began her new life at the feet of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She had a particular love and devotion for Her and wanted her sisters, although they received the precious Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion only seven times a year, to receive communion on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. (Rule, #3) St. Clare even desired that any form of fasting be dispensed on the feasts of Mary. As much in love as St. Clare was with Christ Crucified, so also was she with His Mother, reflecting upon Her sorrows. She wrote to Sister Ermentrude: Meditate constantly on the mysteries of the cross and the agonies of His Mother standing at the foot of the Cross. (Letter to Ermentrude)
St. Clare was deeply convinced that perseverance in her vocation gave honor to Mary. She prayed for the gift of perseverance, and in her Testament she writes: Let us be very careful that, if we have set out on the path of the Lord, we do not at any time turn away from it through our own fault and ignorance, or that we do a great wrong to so great a Lord and His Virgin Mother, and our blessed father Francis, the Church Triumphant and even the Church Militant…For this reason, I bend the knee to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ so that, through the prayers and merits of the glorious and holy Virgin Mary, His Mother, and our most blessed father Francis and all the saints, the Lord Himself, Who has given a good beginning, may give the increase and may give final perseverance. Amen. (Testament)
St. Clare’s love for Mary was a transforming element for her, that she expressed in the imitation of Mary’s virtues. Even Cardinal Rainaldo in the letter of Approval of the Rule, recognizes that the community of St. Clare follows in the footsteps of Christ and His Most Holy Mother, and have chosen to live a cloistered life. Of all the aspects of the life of Jesus and Mary, St. Clare is particularly concerned with imitating the poverty of Mary that she might be also faithful to the example of St. Francis, who sought to follow the poverty of the Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother. It was this deep love for Mary that merited for St. Clare the assistance of Our Blessed Mother during her illness. One biographer writes that when Clare seemed close to death, surrounded by her sisters who were weeping, a Benedictine nun had a vision and saw a beautiful lady at the head of the bed who addressed the weeping sisters saying: Daughters, do not cry for one who still must live on until the Lord with His disciples comes to her. (Life, #40)
Mary is the Mother of all the living (Lumen Gentium, #56) Mary gives birth to God, by giving Him our human nature. And Her Son, receiving from Her all that is human, gives Her, as much as possible, all that is of God. Jesus was like Mary in Her human form, and Mary was like Jesus in His spiritual form. There was never a creature so much ‘like God’ than Mary. Between Mother and Son there was a full and perfect union and correspondence, even in that insurmountable distance that separates the divine Son from Her, a pure creature. (Free translation from St. Lawrence of Brindisi) It is this relationship between the human and the divine that St. Clare learned and deepened through her love for Jesus and Mary.
St. Clare’s love for Jesus and Mary led her to an active contemplation of Jesus and Mary that culminated at the foot of the Cross in the ultimate sign of the depth of God’s love for humanity, and humanity’s participation with God in Mary. Her love for the Crucified Christ led to Mary, the Virgin Made Church, Whose ‘yes’ to God made our redemption possible. Before the image of the Crucified, St. Clare opened herself to the mystery of God’s limitless love for all humanity, and there she found the Mother of the Redeemer Who guided her to contemplate the role Mary was called to fulfill in our salvation history. From the first moment of Her Conception until Her glorious Assumption to the right hand of Her Son Jesus, Mary is an intimate collaborator in the mystery of salvation. She offers Jesus to others, disregarding the disadvantages to Herself, so that Jesus in turn could offer Himself for us all. Mary’s collaboration from the first moment of the Lord’s conception in Her womb is remembered by the Evangelists. Mary carries Jesus, still within Her womb, to Elizabeth and the Baptist; She presents Him to the Magi; She offers Him to Simeon and Anna; She encourages Him to perform His first miracle to save a young couple from embarrassment; She accompanies Him to Calvary and death where, at the foot of the Cross, She offers Him and Herself with Him. In the sufferings of Calvary Mary became our Mother in the life of grace. Her spiritual itinerary is the life of one who accepted and lived God’s Will. When Mary and her relatives went to see Jesus at Capharnaum, Jesus said to the one who told Him His Mother and relatives were looking for Him: My Mother and my brothers are those who hear the Word of God and live It. Jesus did not distance Himself from His Mother Mary but, on the contrary, extolled Her greatness because She believed and accepted the Father’s Will, as He Himself was doing even in His own journey to the Cross.
St. Clare, in imitation of Mary, opened her heart and life to live God’s Will as it was proclaimed by the Magisterium and counseled by St. Francis. Yet, with all her simple, humble obedience, St. Clare is a woman radical in her approach to the life she was called to live, flexible towards her sisters and the human weaknesses she encountered, and truly free to be detached from all that could keep her from focusing on the eternal gifts and striving for them. St. Clare is an image of that strong Woman who stood at the foot of the Cross with the dignity of an empress and a heart pierced with the sorrow of a loving Mother. St. Clare stood her ground firmly convinced for years with the officials of the Church for the Privilege of Poverty that eventually she was granted shortly before her death; yet she would be aware of and respond with the love, concern, and the flexibility of a caring mother to the needs of her sisters and any who came seeking her assistance. She lived the words she wrote to her spiritual daughter, St. Agnes of Prague: Embrace the poor Christ. Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him…gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate your Spouse. (2nd Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)
St. Clare of Assisi ‘gazed upon the Lord’ in the depths of her heart and in the faces of her sisters and others. With the love of a mother, she responded to their needs, and even placed her own life in jeopardy for their sakes. Remember the two times we are told she saved the monastery from invasion and the sisters from harm by standing with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament between the sisters and the invaders. Jesus was the center of her life. He filled her with courage and strength. And Mary was the valiant woman of Scripture whose example helped St. Clare instill serenity and peace in others.
As spiritual children of our seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and our holy Mother St. Clare, let us follow their example. Let Christ be our center so that we too may irradiate goodness and peace to all; let Mary be our Mother whose life, from Her Immaculate Conception to Her Assumption body and soul into heaven, be a constant reminder of our origins in God’s love and His pledge to us in Jesus that we, one day, will have the opportunity to share the eternal joys of heaven in the body with which we were known on earth and through which we sought to give glory and praise to God. O Christian, remember your dignity (St. Leo the Great) and live as redeemed children of God.
May God bless you; may Our Lady, guide, guard, and protect you; and may our Seraphic Father St. Francis of Assisi and Holy Mother St. Clare watch over each one of us, their Spiritual Children, with loving care.
Peace and Blessings
Fr. Francis A. Sariego, O.F.M. Cap.
Regional Spiritual Assistant
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Most recently I have had the privilege of attending a talk given by Father Michael O.F.M. Conv. Parochial Vicar of St. Peter Church in Point Pleasant. It was held in Neptune at the Upper Room.
The talk was entitled “ A Pilgrimage with Francis and Clare”. It was so refreshing to hear those events which took place which lead up to the sainthood of Francis and Clare. There was so much I didn’t know about the history of Assisi at the time of Francis and Clare or could I humbly say I forgot.
The vision for Francis and Clare was to embrace Christ with their all, humbly with faith. Beginning with The Prayer before the Crucifix and then The Canticle of the Creatures made this evident and with the excerpt from the Third letter to Agnes of Prague, Place your mind in the mirror of eternity; Place your soul in the splendor of glory; Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance; and, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself, so that you, yourself, may also experience what his friends experience when they taste the hidden sweetness that God alone has kept from the beginning for those who love Him. This signifies that in the Eucharist we are transformed into the Image of Christ.
The part of the talk I enjoyed hearing the most was that Clare was the first woman to write a rule, and in 1215 the Lateran Council IV Pope Clement approved her rule August the 9th. She died two days after.
In 1253 in spite of rules being written for other communities this is when the Pope said there were enough rules written and so they got rid of Clare’s rule. They were given the rule of Saint Benedict to follow.
In the 1900th century they interred her body she was found incorrupt and holding a copy of her rule in her hands and so therefore we have her rule.
Let me close with an intention for the novena prayer of Saint Clare.
Pope Francis has asked us to live as evangelizers within our families and in the world. May we open our hearts to the world’s pain, in a desire to be identified with
the Passion of Jesus that is being lived out in our world. We are to care for our Earth with reverence for all forms of life. We entrust to the healing power of St. Clare that we may faithfully follow the Light of the Gospel and become instruments of Peace in our World.
Peace be with you all,
The words are brutal; the attitude – ugly. Accusations are made, stories true, half true or completely untrue are repeated and repeated and repeated.
It must be a Presidential election year! What a great time to be Franciscan!!
This is not a political blog. I am not here to foist my political views on anyone. I don’t care who you are voting for – that’s your right and privilege. What I do care about is how easy it is to get caught up with the crowd. And that’s not Franciscan. Don’t we naturally tend to swim upstream? …against the tide of what everyone else is doing?
Both conventions are over and now the real mud slinging begins! There are far, far too many people who believe every word that crosses their screen. It’s no different than all the people who believe every word that is written in the Star or the National Enquirer. If it’s in print, it must be gospel!
We really need to be vigilant in what we do…and how we do it. There are some beautiful religious e-mails that come around – beautiful prayers, inspiring thoughts. And at the end, it reads……make a wish and pass this on to all the people in your address book. Make a wish?? That’s not how I approach my God. Can you see St. Francis proclaiming one of his passionate canticles and then turning to the Brothers and saying…Make a wish and go tell everyone you know. Making a wish has nothing to do with who we are. Taking part in slander is very wrong. Even passing on true information can be wrong if we have no business passing it on. Lies and even hurtful truths take on a life of their own. My heart aches for the parents of the 13-year-old girl who committed suicide because of what her classmates had posted on the web about her.
I am not saying Franciscans shouldn’t forward any messages on the Internet. But before you do, stop and think WWFD…What would Francis do?
Our reading from Morning Prayer on Friday, Week I comes form Ephesians, 4:29 – 32: Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.
This Presidential race will be more lively than most. The closer we get to election day, the more tightly wound everyone will be. In this election year, wouldn’t it be better…more Franciscan …to pray for the right outcome? Ask God to guide us in getting the person in office that He wants to be there.
It’s going to be a long, hot summer and that has nothing to do with the weather! Wouldn’t it be nicer to stand back, hold onto our Franciscan serenity, and stay out of the sensationalism?
Here is a prayer put forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Prayer Before An Election
Lord God, as the election approaches, we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.
We ask for eyes that are free from blindness so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters, one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty. We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.
We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom. We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.
We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A very useful document has been added to our digital library — The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge. It is available as both a Word Document and a PDF. Some Fraternities make reading this pledge part of their monthly gathering. My own fraternity includes it as part of our monthly benediction service. We think you will find it to be a beautiful summary our responsibilities as Secular Franciscans:
The Secular Franciscan Monthly Pledge
We realize the importance of giving glory to God, of striving for holiness and of working for the spiritual and temporal welfare of others. We see the great value of the Secular Franciscan Way of Life to achieve these all important goals in life. Therefore, we resolve to observe the teaching and footsteps of Jesus Christ according to the spirit and rule of St. Francis.
With God’s grace, we will participate as fully and as often as possible in the Mass, the Sacraments (especially Reconciliation), and the official prayer of the Church. We will spend a portion of time each day in personal prayer. And we will be involved in the monthly meeting as an act of worship and a building of community.
We will contribute according to our means and time and talent and possessions for the charities of our Franciscan Family. And we will uphold the dignity of every person and the worth of all creation.
We will always be loyal to the Commandments of God and to the Church. We will continually try to turn closer to the Lord. And we will use what we have in a spirit of justice, moderation, and generosity.
We will be proud to display the emblem of our membership in the Secular Franciscan Order. By our actions and our speech, we will set a good example and will strive to be peacemakers in our society, especially within our families and toward those who are poor, sick or disadvantaged.
This we resolve through the help of the Virgin Mary and St. Francis, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen
Mea Culpa! The month of July is several days old and I am just getting to the postings. I have been in St. Louis since June 28 preparing for the 2016 Q. Now that I am home, there is still a smile on my face and I hope it stays there a good long time. It is hard to describe what it is like to spend 4 days with 600 Secular Franciscans. There is great joy at greeting old friends and new. If there is a tau cross around your neck…..you are family! Spending time in prayer with so many brothers and sisters who are traveling the path with you, is certainly uplifting if not life changing.
The theme for the 2016 Q is Reviving Our Spirit and it was very well chosen. Every aspect of the weekend lifted your spirit. There were talks by Father Murray Bodo, OFM, Father Lester Bach, OFM Cap and the keynote speaker, Father Dan Horan, OFM. These men are Franciscan “All Stars” whose books helped to form us and now that we are professed, help sustain us. Listening to them speak and spending time one-on-one with them is truly a hug from God. These humble men stood in line for their meals, asked if they could sit at an empty place at the table and joined in conversations. They really do preach the gospel by their actions.
Tibor Kauser, OFS, our Minister General was there and spoke of fraternities in Lebanon and Dubai. Jenny Harrington, OFS, from Africa spoke about having fraternities in the US ‘twinning’ with a fraternity in Africa. Our order is growing around the world and we need to tap into that.
So many of you participated in the Blessing Bag project which blessed people far beyond our own reach. Box after box after box was waiting for the Committee when we arrived. It was hard to believe the response! We sorted hundreds of bars of soap, tooth paste, deodorant, shampoo, etc down one side of the room. The other side was dedicated to snack items: instant oatmeal, raisins, energy bars, crackers. The Herr Company – a local family owned business – donated 12 cases of Herr snack paks.
Packing the Blessing Bags was optional on The Q schedule and was slated for Friday afternoon. We had it set up like an assembly line. Grab a zip lock bag at one end of the tables and walk down packing whatever you would like from the selection. The number of people who came to pack the bags was amazing. Both the toiletry side and the snack side had solid lines of people giving their time to help. At the end of both sides were a stack of holy cards with St. Francis on one side…of course!…and printed on the back was the message: Packing this Blessing Bag for you was a blessing for me. I will hold you in my prayers.
Sister Connie Probst, who heads the St. Anthony Food Pantry in St. Louis, arrived at 4:00 to pick up the donations. Something happened to the communications because Sister Connie showed up in a Toyota never expecting she would need a large van! She laughed and cried at the sight that greeted her. When the Secular Franciscans do something, they do it right!!
So many of the Seculars who were passing through these lines remarked that this is something we should continue to do. Many felt we can do it at Regional Meetings as well. It certainly doesn’t have to be on such a grand scale as what we did at The Q. If it is done at a Regional Meeting, we can donate the bags or each of us take one home to keep in our car. When you come upon a homeless person you will be ready to bless them with a few items to make their way a little easier.
This last year being on The Q Committee was more work than I ever dreamed of. But it resulted in so very many blessings for all who attended and that is a big blessing to me. I carried each of you in my prayers throughout the week and hope that you will be able to experience a Quinquennial at some point. It certainly helps you feel that you belong to an Order and not just a Fraternity. The next Q will be in 2021 – 100 years since the very first Q was held. Start saving those nickels and dimes because it promises to be spectacular!