Thoughts From Your Regional Formation Director, March, 2015

Dear Sisters and Brothers,assisi09%20021[1]

Peace and all good to you!

It is said that father Francis who, when in prison, started his conversion, took the words of the Gospel of Mark 6:7-13 literally. Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money for their belts.

St. Francis took the Lenten season very seriously, as we read in Chapter 7 The Little Flowers of Francis of Assisi, a new translation by Robert H. Hopcke and Paul A. Schwartz:

Saint Francis, true servant of Christ, was in many ways like Christ himself, given to the world for the salvation of all people. Thus, God willed that Saint Francis conform to the example of his only son Jesus Christ in his choice of twelve companions, as we have seen, in the wondrous mystery of the Sacred Stigmata, and in his Lenten fasting, which he observed in the following manner.

Having been lodged at the house of a faithful follower near the Lake of Perugia during the time of Carnival, Saint Francis was inspired by God to observe Lent that year on one of the islands in the lake. So Saint Francis asked his devoted son, for the love of God, to take him on Ash Wednesday in his boat to the uninhabited island by night, so that no one might see them, which the man did readily out of the great love and devotion he held toward Saint Francis. Bringing with him only two small loaves of bread, Saint Francis enjoined his friend to tell no one that he was there and to come back for him no sooner than Holy Thursday, at which his friend took leave of the island, leaving Saint Francis there by himself.

As there were no houses on the island to be used as shelter, Saint Francis was content to use a large, thick bush overgrown with vines and plants as a kind of den or hut for himself. There he prayed and contemplated heavenly matters, staying there throughout all of Lent without food or drink, eating no more than half of one of the small loaves he had brought with him, and his faithful friend found him on Holy Thursday upon his return to the island. Upon seeing a loaf and a half of bread still untouched, he believed that the saint ate the half loaf he did eat out of sheer reverence for the fasting of the blessed Christ, who ate nothing for forty days and forty nights, wishing to follow the example of Christ’s fast but setting aside any temptation to vainglory by eating this half loaf of bread as an act of intentional humility.

Afterward, God began to perform miracles in this place where Saint Francis had observed his Lenten abstinence in such a wondrous fashion. People came to this island, building houses and living there, until finally a town grew up, along with a community house for the friars, and all in this place where Saint Francis observed Lent felt great devotion for him and reverence.

Praise be to Jesus Christ and to his poor servant Francis. Amen.

For the remainder of Lent let us pray with joyful hearts, giving to those in need and denying ourselves so that we as Franciscans, who share in the cross, can share in the glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday. Glory be to God.

For further reflection, be sure to read Pope Francis’ Lenten Message, Make Your Hearts Firm. The message was signed on Oct. 4th, 2014, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis makes reference to three Biblical texts which applies to the above and ourselves as the Church and Franciscans.

Love, Rosie

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