“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

“Praised be You, my Lord…”

Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessing.

To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name….

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs

Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.    

(The Canticle of Brother Sun, by St. Francis of Assisi; Verses1, 2, 9, 14)

St. Elizabeth of Hungary – Patroness of Secular Franciscans

St. Elizabeth of HungaryToday, November 17th, Franciscans around the world, but especially Secular Franciscans, will celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  With St. Louis IX of France, she is Co-Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.

Born in Hungary, in 1207, she went to the German territory of Thuringia, to become the wife of its ruler, Louis.  Together they would have four children.  She would become well known for her acts of charity to the poor, establishing a hospital for the ill; and food for her poor subjects. Her husband would die from illness, while he was traveling to join an Imperial Crusade to the Holy Land. Court intrigue forced Elizabeth, with some of her children, to abandon the capital city, and flee. In a smaller, poorer city, she took residence and continued her service to the poor. Influenced by the recent arrival of Franciscan friars, she took one of them as her spiritual advisor. She would eventually become a Franciscan penitent. She would also eventually die relatively young.

St. Elizabeth can be, in fact, is a counter cultural example for our modern times. With our fascination with the rich and famous. With a minority of people controlling the majority of wealth in our country; to hear of a young, energetic woman willingly give up her riches for the poor, should shake our complacency. How best can we answer Christ’s command to feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; welcome the stranger. And what opportunities have we missed to do so?

Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, may our eyes and hearts be open to those in need.

The Transitus of Saint Francis of Assisi

TransitusOn this evening, October 3rd, throughout the world, members of the Franciscan family, and persons attracted to Francis of Assisi; are gathering in churches, chapels, friaries, monasteries, and convents. We gather to commemorate the passing of a beautiful soul, from this life into eternal life in heaven. We will read the stories of his final days, offer prayers of thanksgiving to God, for the gift of Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi, born a cloth merchant’s son, he would become a mystic, an evangelist, a lover of the poor, a lover of God. Through him, people were drawn back to faith, to living the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thousands of men were inspired to follow Francis as members of the Order of Friars Minor; thousands of women joined his disciple, Clare of Assisi, in monastic communities known as the Poor Ladies, later the Poor Clares. And thousands of ordinary people, men and women, farmers and merchants, rich and poor; gathered together as Penitents, under his and his brethren’s guidance. They would become known as the Third Order of St. Francis, later the Secular Franciscan Order.
For twenty years, Francis strove to live the Good News of the Jesus Christ; now his life on this earth was ending. Friar Thomas of Celano, an early biographer of the saint, told this story of his passing:
“Then, when many brothers had gathered about, whose father and leader he was, and while they were standing reverently at his side awaiting his blessed death and happy end, his most holy soul was freed from his body and received into the abyss of light, and his body fell asleep in the Lord. One of his brothers and disciples, a man of some renown, whose name I think should withhold here because while he lives in the flesh, he prefers not to glory in so great a privilege, saw the soul of the most holy father ascend over many waters directly into heaven. For it was like a star, having in some way the immensity of the moon, but a certain extent the brightness of the sun, and it was borne upward on a little cloud.” Celano, First Life: 110
Francis of Assisi, by his life and his words, continues to inspire many Christians to live a deeper commitment to Christ. The story of his life continues to inspire pilgrims to come to Assisi, to visit the places key to life, and to his final resting place. Pax et Bonum!

 

Franciscans Reaching Out!

St. Francis of Assisi, and his fellow friars were different from other religious of their day.  Rather than remain in monasteries, behind walls; they went out into the city streets, marketplaces, and the highways to bring the Good News to all.

Today, Franciscan friars are still exploring new avenues of reaching out to people.  The internet, the Web, and Facebook have become the new electronic highways they travel.

I found this poster on an MBTA Red Line subway car.  I know the friar pictured in it, Brother John “Mags.”  a wonderful friar.  

The Good News of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in many ways, through many new mediums.  But, bottom line, it is how each one of us lives the Gospel that provides the best evangelization.

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics, indeed, all peoples, to pray for the care of Creation.  He asks that we first offer praise and thanks to God the Creator for the precious gift of this earth.  Then, we should pray that He sends His Spirit into our hearts, to inspire us to care for this gift He has given us.  Pope Francis composed a prayer that he included in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” that could provide a good starting point for our reflections.  I am also including below, a prayer, a hymn, by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is joining with all of Creation, in giving praise to God.  May we all do the same this day.

Francis and Brother Sun

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi – 2016

Today, the Franciscan Family, with rest of the Catholic Church, celebrates the memory of Clare of Assisi.  A young noblewoman of the medieval city of Assisi, she was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, to leave a life of wealth and influence, and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, guided by Francis, she and a group of liked minded Assisian women, formed a community of prayer, and evangelical poverty.  Living a hidden life of contemplation, with very few known writings in existence; she has been a source of inspiration to many to seek a more intimate relationship with God.

The Order she confounded with Francis still exists, now known as the Poor Clares.