St. John the Evangelist Lenten Retreat (February 25, 2024)

Fr. Tom Betz, OFM Cap (Pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church-Philadelphia, PA) offered a Lenten retreat on Sunday, February 25th, with the theme of “Jesus of Nazareth.”  In his reflection, Fr. Tom also spoke about the Stigmata of St. Francis.  Bob McKee, an inquirer to the fraternity, presented perspectives on Jesus’ forgiveness from the Cross.

The fraternity shared some photos from this special day of reflection and conversion…

St. John the Evangelist Fraternity also shared links to two of the reflections:

May our Lenten journey bring us closer to Christ through deep reflections such as these!

April 28 – Blessed Luchesio (Lucius) & Buonadonna  d. 1260

Shared by our sister and Regional Vice Minister, Cindy Louden, OFS
April 28 – Blessed Luchesio (Lucius) & Buonadonna  d. 1260
Luchesio Modestini was a merchant in the little town of Poggibonzi in Tuscany.  More than most merchants, he was so entirely and solely concerned with material success that he was generally reputed to be an avaricious man.  His wife, Buonadonna, was of a similar disposition.  Then the grace of God touched the husband.  He realized how foolish it is to strive only for worldly goods, of which he could take nothing with him to eternity, meanwhile forgetting about his soul’s salvation, as he had, unfortunately, been doing until then.  He began to practice works of mercy and to perform his religious obligations with fidelity; he succeeded in winning his wife over to a similar outlook on life.
Since they had no one to care for but themselves, and Luchesio feared that in conducting his business he might relapse into covetousness, he gave up his business entirely.  He and his good wife divided everything among the poor and retained for themselves only so much acreage as would suffice for their support.  Luchesio tilled this with his own hands.
About this time St. Francis came to Tuscany.  After his sermon on penance, hosts of people desired to leave all and enter the convent.  But the saint admonished them calmly to persevere in their vocation, for he had in mind soon to give them a special rule according to which they could serve God perfectly even in the world.
At Poggibonzi Francis visited Luchesio, with whom he had become acquainted through former business transactions.  Francis greatly rejoiced to find this avaricious man so altered, and Luchesio, who had already heard about the blessed activities of Francis, asked for special instructions for himself and his wife, so that they might lead a life in the world that would be pleasing to God.
Francis then explained to them his plans for the establishment of an order for lay people; and Luchesio and Buonadonna asked to be received into it at once.  Thus, according to tradition, they became the first members of the Order of Penance, which later came to be called the Third Order, (and then Secular Franciscan Order).
If Luchesio and Buonadonna were really the first Tertiaries, they must have become such not long after St. Francis founded his First Order in 1209. The first simple rule of life, which St. Francis gave to the first Tertiaries at that time, was supplanted in 1221 by one which Cardinal Ugolino prepared in legal wording.  And in the same year Pope Honorius III approved this rule verbally.  For this reason, the year 1221 (801 years ago) is often given as the date of the founding of the Third Order of St. Francis/OFS.
After Luchesio had put on the gray garment of a Tertiary,(this is still permitted at our death)  he rapidly advanced toward perfect holiness.  He practiced penitential austerities, often fasted on bread and water, slept on the hard floor, and at his work bore God constantly in his heart.  His generosity to the poor knew no bounds, so that one day there was not even a loaf of bread for his own household.  When still another poor man came, he asked his wife to look whether there was not something they could find for him.  That vexed her and she scolded him severely; his mortifications, she said, had well nigh crazed him, he would keep giving so long that they themselves would have to suffer hunger.  Luchesio asked her gently to please look in the pantry, for he trusted in Him who had multiplied a few loaves for the benefit of thousands.  She did so, and the marvel of it!  The whole pantry was filled with the best kind of bread.  From that time on Buonadonna vied with her husband in doing good.
When a plague raged in Poggibonzi and the surrounding places, Luchesio went out with his laden donkey, to bring the necessaries to the sick.  When he did not have enough to supply all, he begged for more from others in behalf of the distressed.
Once he carried a sick cripple, whom he had found on the way, to his home on his shoulders.  A frivolous young man met him, and asked him mockingly, “What poor devil is that you are carrying there on your back?”  Luchesio replied calmly. “I am carrying my Lord Jesus Christ.”  At once the young man’s face became distorted, he cried out fearfully, and was dumb. Contritely he cast himself on his knees before Luchesio, who restored his speech to him by means of the Sign of the Cross.
The time had come when the faithful servant of God was to receive the reward for his good works.  When he lay very ill, and there was no hope for his recovery, his wife said to him, “Implore God, who gave us to each other as companions in life, to permit us also to die together.”  Luchesio prayed as requested. and Buonadonna fell ill with a fever, from which she died even before her husband, after devoutly receiving the holy sacraments. Luchesio passed away with holy longing for God on April 28, 1260.  At his grave in the Franciscan church at Poggibonzi many miracles have occurred. His continuous veneration as Blessed was approved by Pope Pius VI.
1. Christ our Lord says in His Gospel: “The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls.  Who when he had found one pearl of great price, went his way, and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matt 13:45-46).  Such a merchant was Blessed Luchesio, since, having been enlightened by grace, he found the costly pearl of true godliness.  Then he desisted from his covetous chase after perishable goods, gave them up in order to inherit imperishable treasures, which now delight him in his beatitude with God, and will be his eternal joy.  May we, too, find this costly pearl!
2. Consider what folly, on the other hand, it is to strive after temporal goods as is done by so many people.  They place their body and soul in danger; they have troubles here on earth and hereafter.  The body is exposed to fatigue, hardships, privations, and even danger to life; through falsehood and deceit, through disregard of the commandments of God and of the Church, the soul becomes laden with much guilt.  And in the end, what does man achieve with the temporal goods he has acquired?  “As he came forth naked from his mother’s womb, so shall he return, and shall take nothing away with him of his labor” (Eccl 5:14).  Must the same judgment perhaps be passed concerning your endeavors?
3. Consider that not everybody in this world can act as did Blessed Luchesio.  Not everyone is free of obligations toward others, who are perhaps entrusted to his temporal care, nor has everyone the grace and the vocation for such extraordinary virtues.  If anyone believes himself called by God in that way, he should seek counsel with his spiritual director. But everyone can and should strive, while following his occupation and business, to gather at the same time eternal and imperishable goods.  He can do that if he conducts his temporal business as the special vocation assigned to him by God to acquire a livelihood for himself and his family; if through it he endeavors to be of service to his fellowmen; if he tries to promote Christian morality according to the best of his power, himself setting the good example; if, finally, he does not endeavor greedily to hoard what he acquires, but uses it well, gladly sharing it with those in need.  “Blessed is the rich man who is found without blemish; and who has not gone after gold, nor put his trust in money nor in treasures” (Eccl 31:8).
O God, who in the plentitude of Thy mercy didst call Blessed Luchesio to penance and didst permit him to shine by the merits of piety and liberality, grant us at his intercession, that in imitation of his example, we may produce worthy fruits of penance, and through works of piety and charity merit forgiveness.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.
edited by Marion Habig, OFM     Copyright 1959, Franciscan Herald Press & used with written permission from the publisher

Joe Pokorny, OFS, Hymnwriter from Padre Pio Fraternity

Hymn writer says little-known Marian apparition has a message for today

Are You Wasting Your Leftovers? by Lino Viola, OFS

Are You Wasting Your Leftovers?

To answer this question, we need to look at the readings from the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 25, 2021). In both the first reading (2 Kings 4:42- 44) and the Gospel (John 6: 1-15) we have different people assessing a situation where there is a scarcity of resources. Although the numbers to be fed vary greatly – 100 in the first reading versus 5000 plus in the Gospel – the results come about strictly in relying on God’s abundance. This abundance creates leftovers but before we address that let us look at how each person tries to deal with this situation.

In the first reading the servant objects at Elisha’s instruction to give the twenty barley loaves and fresh grain in the ear to the people to eat. He responds, “How can I set this before a hundred people?” He makes a mathematical evaluation and sees the scarcity of resources. Elisha, the man of God, insists saying, “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’” His faith and reliance are on God. The servant did as he was told and the reading ends with, “And they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.” (2 Kgs 4:44)

In the Gospel, Jesus sees a large crowd coming to Him. He asks Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Philip seems to be overwhelmed by how much it would cost to meagerly feed the crowd. Another disciple, Andrew, finds a boy in the crowd who has five barley loaves and two fish but again just like the servant of the first reading he looks at the scarcity of resources and says, “but what good are these for so many?”

The responses and reactions we have read of so far begs to ask ourselves, how do we see the world? Do we only see the scarcity or the Divine abundance? Do we make God part of the solution? Do we pray?

“Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them.” They also had as much fish as they wanted. When they had their fill, Jesus told the disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”

The leftovers

Leftovers brought to memory the meals I would have with family, especially when my mom was alive, where I would not only be filled but I was sent home with leftovers. Do you know that some Italian dishes such as lasagna and eggplant parmesan are better the next day, when all the ingredients have had a chance to rest and form that perfect marriage between the pasta, cheeses, sauce and herbs.?

There were twelve baskets of leftovers in John’s Gospel, one for each of the twelve disciples. There are always leftovers when we get fed from God, especially at Mass. We have the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist. We are fed and leave the church filled by the Eucharist and we are to bring that excess to others we meet. Our sharing of what God has done in our lives with others is like sharing a piece of yesterday’s lasagna. It is all done out of God’s abundance and love for every one of us. Please do not waste the leftovers.