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.

Feast of the Porziuncola August 2, 2016

PoziuncolaToday, Franciscans everywhere are celebrating the Feast of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels of the Porziuncola (Little Portion).  Actually, a small chapel, it is one of several chapels around Assisi, Italy, that St. Francis of Assisi repaired; shortly after his conversion.  He was doing this in response to a mystical encounter with the Crucified Christ, who commanded Francis to “Repair My House!”  Taking the command literally, he began to repair the chapel of San Damiano, and the other chapels.  It was only later that he understood his mission was to “repair,” (ie, renew) the Catholic Church.

St. Mary of the Angels became the “mother church,” of the Franciscan Order, and indeed, the entire Franciscan movement.  Francis and his first followers built huts of mud, straw and wattle around the chapel, and used them as cells.  The little portion of  land on which the chapel stood, belonged to the Benedictine monks of Mount Subasio, who have rented the site to the Franciscans, in return for a basket of fish.  Over the years, the chapel became a pilgrimage destination, and eventually, the Franciscans and Pope ordered that the simple little chapel be enclosed in a huge grand basilica; the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels.

Today, the little chapel, located in this huge basilica, will be visited by Pope Francis.  It ties into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, that the Pope declared last year.  The little chapel is the site of one of the most famous indulgences granted by the Catholic Church.  Although the historical fact has not been proven, legend has it that St. Francis asked the Pope to grant a plenary indulgence to anyone who came to the Porziuncola chapel, praying for forgiveness of their sins.  An indulgence is granted to the soul of an individual, which remits some of the temporal “punishment”or “cleansing,” that a soul must go through in purgatory, before being admitted to the full beatific vision of God in heaven.  A plenary indulgence grants a full remittance.  The “Porziuncola Indulgence,” was originally granted only to those who visited the chapel, later Popes expanded it to those who visited a Franciscan church, chapel, or oratory.  It was finally also granted to those who visited any church designated by the local bishop, between the afternoon of August 1, to sunset on August 2.  They must at least recite the Our Father or the Creed; and must go to Confession, receive Communion, and pray for the intentions of the Pope.

Indulgences is a means by which the Church illustrates the mercy and love of God for all people.  And it is why Pope Francis is making the journey to Assisi, to go into a huge, ornate, basilica; to enter a very small chapel, that has the power of God’s love.

“…And In His Saints!” A Work of Fiction from a Real Tragedy

niceThe French EMT helps load another stretcher into the ambulance, and shuts its doors as it takes off.  She wearily turns around and looks down the street of tragedy; lined with the injured, and the dead.  Just a little while ago it was full of people, celebrating the founding of a republic, celebrating Bastille Day.  Then tragedy struck in this city of Nice; one maniac in a truck, mowing the people down.  Now, there is fear, agony, and grief.  And her heart is screaming:  “Where are You in all of this?”

She closes her eyes for second.  When she opens them, she is looking at the curbside.  She notices for the first time, a little friar, dressed in a patched brown habit.  He is holding the hand of an injured child, singing a French ditty for her.

The sound of sobbing draws her attention to two women, kneeling over a covered body.  One of them is bent over with grief; the other has her arm around the grieving woman’s shoulders, holding her tight.  This woman looks like she is from the Middle East.  She is wearing a long blue veil; her face looks as if she has known much sorrow in her life, and now she is comforting another woman through hers.

The EMT looks further down the street of tragedy and saw a police officer standing guard.  He nervously stares out into night, holding his rifle tight.  The EMT blinks her eyes, because she could swear there was a girl standing next to him.  She is dressed like a French peasant, with short-cropped hair.  Her hand is gripping the officer’s shoulder, as with fierce eyes, she also stares into night with him.  Is that a sword in her other hand?

Movement next to her drew the EMT’s attention.  She stares at her medical bag, and sees that someone has placed a red rose in it.  She looks quickly behind her and thinks she sees a nun, a Carmelite nun, disappearing into the crowds.  She turns around again, but the people she saw, the friar, the woman in blue, the peasant girl, have also disappeared.  She looks down to her bag, the rose is real.  As she looks at it; she suddenly no longer feels so alone.  She grabs her medical bag, takes a deep breath, and walks back down the street of tragedy.

“Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.”

San Damiano Cross Is Going Home!

San Damiano crossThe Franciscan blogosphere is buzzing with the news that the Cross from which Christ spoke to St. Francis of Assisi, is returning to the chapel of San Damiano!

During his period of conversion, Francis was known to visit some of the chapels that dotted the Italian landscape around Assisi.  Many were in ill-repair, one of them was the chapel of San Damiano.  Francis was said to have been drawn to the icon cross of Christ Crucified that was hanging in the chapel.  The painter of the Byzantine style cross is unknown, but experts estimate its creation took place around 1100 AD.

The story goes that when Francis entered the chapel, and knelt before the cross, he heard the voice of Jesus Christ coming from the image on it.  The Crucified Christ said to Francis: “go and repair my house, which as you can see is falling into ruins.”  Francis immediately assumed that the Divine command referred only to the chapel he was in.  He leaped to his feet, gave some coins to the priest in residence there, to keep the votive lamp burning in front of the cross, and then set off to purchase building materials.  And the rest is, as they say, history.  After rebuilding San Damiano, Francis went on to rebuild several other countryside chapels.  Christ would soon lead Francis to the realization the his call was not just to repair a few chapels, but to repair the whole spiritual edifice known as the Catholic Church.  The Franciscan movement he founded would draw thousands of individuals to join him.  Among them, a young woman by the name of Clare of Assisi, and other women as well.  They became known as the Poor Ladies of Assisi.  We know them today as the Poor Clares.

Francis installed Clare and her sisters in San Damiano, and they became the custodians of the crucifix.  Later, after the death of St. Clare, a basilica church was built within walls of Assisi, to house her remains.  The Poor Clare community also moved into Assisi, for safety, and they brought the crucifix with them.  The San Damiano Cross has been on display within the Basilica of St. Clare for many years.  Now it is being returned to San Damiano, it is going home.

San Damiano Monastery

 

The First Novitiate – Friday Fictioneers

RivoTorto photo-by-piya-singh-bittercharm-6The farmhand walks through the Italian woods, heading for home.  His body aches from his labors; his heart aches because he will barely feed his family with what he earned today.  In the twilight, he is passing by an abandoned farmhouse, when he hears the sound of chanting, coming from it.  He peers in, and sees a group of men, dressed in brown robes, kneeling on the dirt floor.  They circle a little thin man, who is leading them in prayer.  The farmhand sees a glow of light emanating from him, touching the others, touching him.  He experiences great peace.

 

 

 

 

NB:  After Francis of Assisi won provisional papal approval for his rule of life; he and his small group of brothers went down to a small Italian area known as RivoTorto.  There they lived; during the day they cared for lepers.  Some would work in the fields, and get paid in food and drink.  They spent their evenings in prayer, and being taught by Francis.  It was the Order’s first novitiate.  One day, a farmer pushed his donkey into the hut, and pushed the brothers out, into the wider world.

The Birds (A Different Take)

Friday Fictioneers grey-day-with-pigeons-roger-bultot (1)

He slowly gets out of bed; not wanting to face the coming day.  Looking out of his window, he sees the outside reflecting his mood.  He notices the birds, sitting on the wire, huddled together against the damp.  Suddenly, they all take flight; they appear to be heading for his building!  The birds wheel about and head downward.  It is then, that he notices the little man, dressed in a brown robe.  The birds land all around the little man.  He blesses them, and they all take off; filling the air with their birdsong.  Staring out his window, he smiles.

 

A Victory, Won by Words and Respect.

 

Francis and the SultanThe holy man from Assisi is standing in the tent, waiting for a message.  His body was still sore from the beating, he and his companion received from the Sultan’s guards, when they first approached his camp.  He is remembering the scenes he saw in the Crusader’s camp; scenes of anger and hate, directed at Muslims; scenes of loss and grieving for dead comrades.  He felt the same emotions from the Sultan’s soldiers, only directed towards Christian soldiers.  He wants to bring both sides together, by convincing the Sultan and his people to accept Christ.

He remembers the day they were brought before the Sultan, who invited the holy man to speak.  He saw that the Sultan’s men were fingering the hilts of their swords, ready to draw blood if he should insult Allah and His Prophet.  He looked into eyes of the Sultan, and saw curiosity.  He took a deep breath, whispered a prayer, and began to speak.  He spoke not of doctrine, or polemics, but from his heart, from his own experience of the Beloved.  He spoke with respect for his audience.  He felt a flame beginning to burn within his heart.  It grew as he spoke of the love of Christ, and the joy of God.  The fire of the Holy Spirit blazed out from him as he proclaimed the Good News!  The Sultan and his court stood back, amazed at the sight.  When he was finished, he stood, feeling drained, but at peace.  He bowed before the Sultan, who sent him and his companion back to their tent.

Now he sees a messenger approaching; who invites the little man and his companion back to Sultan’s tent.  The Sultan appreciates the respect that the holy one showed him and his court.  He acknowledges the strength of the little poor man’s convictions, but he and his people will remain committed to their faith.  The man from Assisi is disappointed, and saddened; but then the Sultan gives him a passport, permission for his brother friars to go to Jerusalem and reside there.  The little man receives it with joy, and bows deeply before the Sultan.  The Sultan and his court bow in return towards the little poor man from Assisi.

He and his companion walk back to the Crusader camp.  He is disappointed that he did not achieve his goal; but he carries back with him a sign of victory.  It is a victory that the Crusaders will not achieve; but a band of brown rob brothers will see the walls of holy Jerusalem.  It will be achieved not with swords, but by words, spoken with conviction and respect.