Feast Day of All Saints of the Seraphic Order

Working at home can distract one from other things happening in the world. Today I was busy, so I missed looking at my Franciscan calendar; and towards the end of the day, I suddenly found out that today was the feast day of all saints of the “Seraphic” Order; the Franciscan Order. It was a day to remember in prayer, those who had lived the Gospel, according to the example of St. Francis of Assisi, and lived it well.

I think is was originally established to recognize the the known and unknown saints of the Order of Friars Minor; all three branches, Regular, Conventual, and Capuchin. But on this day, I would remember those persons who were either Poor Clare’s, Third Order Franciscan Brothers and Sisters, or members of the Secular Franciscan Order. I am sure that there are many out, whose lives of prayer and charity has been an example for others.

Almighty, eternal God, you were pleased to make your church illustrious through the varied splendor of the saints of the Seraphic Order. As we venerate their memory in one festival, may we also follow such shining examples of virtue on earth and thus obtain merited crowns in heaven.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen”

Random Reflections on the Secular Franciscan Rule

Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which “bear the imprint of the Most High,” and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship. Article 18, Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order

Morning weather reports speaks of drought conditions, of various degrees, existing in Massachusetts, and the rest of New England. A story on a morning news program shows drought conditions in Italy, and it’s affects on the Italian agriculture. And I have seen the pictures of the American West, forest fires burning up dried forests. The famous Lake Meade, slowly became a puddle. Yellowstone National Park, which I love with all my heart, damaged by floods, started by premature melting mountain snows.

All this confirms, for me anyway, that we are at a serious stage of global warming; that the window of opportunity to stop the effects is growing smaller. Special interests, who have a financial stake in keeping things as they are, are keeping the pressure up on civic leaders to leave things alone. And let’s be honest, we enjoy the comfort of our present lifestyle, and really do not want to change anything. But that may not be a choice we can maintain much longer.

It now that we followers of Saint Francis of Assisi need to act more forcefully, and take the implications of what it means love and respect God’s creation as St. Francis did. We are all created by God; we all share in the responsibility of maintaining life on this good Earth. All our actions, whether big or small, will have an effect. All our words, our political activity in defense of the environment can have an effect.

The work of a Franciscan is conversion, of ourself, of our society, of our world never ends. The time of taking it easy is past. The time of being silent is past. It is now time to roll up our shelves, and get to it.

Random Thoughts

“The Rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.” SFO Rule: Article 4

I have ten minutes to create a post for this blog, so here goes!

The Franciscan way of life, both religious and lay, has taken many different forms over the centuries. Different lifestyles, different ways of prayer, different emphasis of mission. But it must all remain rooted in this, the Gospel and the way Francis strove to faithfully live the Gospel!

For a lay Franciscan, this can prove to be a challenge. But in accepting this challenge, he or she enters a blessed way of living. The will be high moments, and low. There will be times of satisfaction, and frustration. But we are not alone in this journey; we will have brothers and sisters here on this earth; and others in heaven, who will encourage us on! The challenge is to get off our duffs and do it.

Saints Francis and Clare, and all Franciscan Saints, pray for us!

Blessed Jacoba of Settesoli, Secular Franciscan

Jacoba of Settesoli was born in the year 1190 into a noble Italian family. She married into a wealthy Roman family, and she and her husband would have children, including two sons. Sadly, her husband passed away.

While managing her household and caring for her children, she began to hear of an itinerant preacher, by the name of Francis. What she heard stirred her heart; and she desired to meet him.

An opportunity came when Francis and his band of brothers came to the city of Rome. Francis was seeking the Pope’s approval of his Rule of Life for his growing community. Lady Jacoba was able to speak to him about how she could live a more spiritual life, following Jesus. Francis advised her to continue caring for her family; that it was possible to live the Gospel life as both a mother and a householder. She followed his advice, although she did turn over management of the family lands to her two sons. She began living a life of prayer and charity. Francis and his brothers would visit her when they were in Rome. She gave a gift of land to the friars so that they could establish a shelter and hospital for local lepers.

During his final illness, he sent word to Jacoba, asking her to come to Assisi, with cloth to make a burial shroud. And he also asked her to bring some of those almond cookies she used to bake for him when he visited her home. She left Rome immediately.

When she reached Assisi; there was an argument among the brothers if it was appropriate for a woman to enter the friary! Francis settled the issue when he commanded them to let “Brother Jacoba” come in. She was present when he died; and mourned with the brothers.

Lady Jacoba remained to Assisi for the rest of her life. She died on February 8, 1273, and is buried in crypt of the Basilica of St Francis; near his tomb.

Feast of Saint Clare

Illustration by Mark Balma

Saint Clare of Assisi was born in 1194. A daughter of a noble Italian family of the city of Assisi. This young lady, who was not particularly interested in entering a noble marriage, heard Saint Francis preaching, and wanted to live the Gospel life he espoused. Because of the social strictures of her times, she began living the Gospel life behind the walls of a monastery.

From behind those walls, she was still able to inspire people to follow Christ. Women came to be admitted to her community located around the chapel of San Damiano, one of the first churches Francis repaired. They lived a simple life of prayer and work. They claimed nothing for their own, no dowries, no financial endowments. People came from all around Assisi, seeking her advice and guidance.

Her influence could be felt beyond the Italian borders; when a noble woman, Agnes of Prague, inspired by lives of Franciscan friars in Hungary, sought Clare’s advice. Agnes would herself establish a Franciscan monastery. Clare, would advise her in several letters. In her second letter to Agnes, she wrote:

O most noble Queen,
gaze upon Him,
consider Him,
contemplate Him,
as you desire to imitate Him.
If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him.
If you weep with Him, you shall rejoice with Him;
If you die with Him on the cross of tribulation, you shall possess heavenly mansions in the splendor of the saints and,in the Book of Life, your name shall be called glorious among men.

Saint Clare died on August 11,1253.

Feast Day of Saint Bonaventure, Franciscan

“Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages.

A person should turn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity; devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked with gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ, a pasch, that is, a passing over. Through the branches of the cross, he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulcher, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’”

From “Journey of the Mind to God” By Saint Bonaventure, Seventh Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal

Born in 1271, Elizabeth was a daughter of one of the rulers of the kingdom of Aragon; which would eventually become part of modern Spain. At age 12, she was married to the king of Portugal, who at that time was named, Denis. She would eventually give birth to two children. While her husband was a philanderer, she remained faithful to him, and fulfilled all her royal duties. She was also a woman of faith, attending church regularly, and maintaining a life of prayer and charity.

She was drawn into royal politics and diplomacy, when her husband and her son’s relationship had deteriorated to the degree that civil war threatened the country. Through her efforts, peace was maintained. Much later in her life, she worked to prevent war between the kingdom of Portugal and the Spanish kingdom of Castile. For her efforts, she became known as “the Peacemaker!”

When her husband died, she left the royal court and took up residence in a Poor Clare monastery. She put on the habit of a Third Order Franciscan tertiary, and lived a life of prayer and charity. Still, she was continually called on to come out and apply her diplomatic skills to keep peace on the Iberian Peninsula.

Elizabeth died in 1336; in 1625, she was canonized as a Saint, in the Roman Catholic Church.

All Franciscans are called to be peacemakers; in our families, communities, churches, nations, the whole world. We do this by actively working for peace, speaking out for peace, supporting peacemaking organizations. And ultimately, maintaining peace within ourselves!

During This Time of COVID, Secular Franciscans Gather!

On Sunday, April 18, 2021, St. Francis Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order, based in Milton, MA, gathered in a member’s backyard. It was the first time the fraternity has come together since the COVID pandemic was declared. Everyone wore masks and social distancing was observed.

Franciscan friars from St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston MA, came and celebrated Mass with us. Also with us was a group of Korean Catholics, who were entering formation to become Secular Franciscans. One of the friars was also Korean, and he preached the homily both in English and Korean. One of the Korean’s with us, sang a beautiful Korean hymn during the Mass. it was a very blessed moment for us all!

After a delicious pot luck lunch, there was held a Welcoming ceremony for the Korean Catholics, who hoped to become professed Secular Franciscans after their time in formation. The ceremony was simple but moving. It gives to us “old timers,” hope that the Order will go on and flourish!

It has been a little more than a year since this pandemic grabbed hold of our world! There has been mourning of loved ones lost! Empty town and city streets; empty stores and offices. And empty churches and synagogues! Our fraternities have developed new skills in using programs like Zoom to keep in touch. Newsletters, personal notes of prayers and support have helped some in maintaining contact.

Still the most important thing we can and should do is pray for one another. Pray for fraternity brothers and sisters, locally, regionally, nationally, and throughout the world! It is by prayer, it is by recognizing that in Christ, we are all one, in Christ, we will get through this, and flourish!

Over a Cup of Coffee!!

So, going back to an old blog type; If we were sharing a cup of coffee, I would tell how hard it has been to keep up with the blogging! I can give a bunch of excuses; my laptop went on the fritz; it took awhile to get my new IPad up and running. And I could finally admit that I really having a bad dry spell.

But over a cup of coffee, I would share that on this weekend, here on Cape Cod, I am feeling at least a little inspiration. The Franciscan in me has been more aware of the beauty of God’s creation that surrounds me.

“Praise be You, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, Who is the day and through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendor; and bears a likeness of You, Most High One.
“Praise be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful.”
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather, through whom You give sustenance to Your creatures.”
“Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, so very useful and humble, precious and chaste.”
“Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.”

O praise and bless my Lord, thank him and serve humbly and grandly,

Excerpts from The Canticle of the Creatures by Saint Francis of Assisi!

The coffee cup is empty, and time to get ready for the next. May the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!