Friday evening, the Franciscan Brothers of Life celebrated the Transitus of Our Holy Father LOGOSt. Francis at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines.    It was an incredible evening of prayer, meditation, silence, some music, preaching and a role play of the death of St. Francis.  There were the secular brothers and their families and the regular (consecrated) brothers and our relatives and friends.

The service began at sunset, just about the same time that we believe St. Francis died, with Postulant Eduardo Alvarez reading St. Bonaventure’s narrative of St. Francis’ last days in this world.   As Eduardo read from the writings of St. Bonaventure, two brothers carried in Aspirant Raul Camarca who played St. Francis of Assisi.  It was very beautiful to see the great reverence with which the brothers and the rest of the congregation responded to a fragile and sick looking St. Francis, who wounded by the Stigmata, was carried in and laid on a stretcher on the sanctuary floor.

At one point, St. Francis asks to be stripped naked and laid on the bare earth.  Father Superior and Aspirant Albert Rodriguez proceeded to strip St. Francis’ habit and to lay him naked on the floor, with the habit thrown over him just as Brother Elias had done 800 years ago when Francis was stripped of his habit by the brothers.

As Eduardo kept reading from St. Bonaventure, we heard St. Francis ask that the Canticle of Brother Sun be sung for him one last time.  This time, the community broke into a quiet, almost whispered version of the Canticle, as if singing a lullaby to a child who is falling
asleep.  There was such great tenderness and love in that church that one could feel the brothers of 800 years ago saying goodbye to their father and friend.

There was one last request from Francis.  He wanted to hear the John 13: 1-17, the Washing of the Feet.  For Francis, this was the rule of life.  Christ exemplified poverty, humility, fraternity, charity, and service to the poorest of the poor. Christ gave the example of what it Jesus and boymeans to be the first-born among many brothers and a servant to all of them. With that, continued the reading from the Legend of St. Francis by Bonaventure until the moment when Francis’ soul is released from his body.

The brothers then proceed one by one to venerate the blessed hand of our Holy Father by kneeling and kissing it.  The brother who played St. Francis had spent time in reflection with Father Superior on what it means to be an icon.  This was not just a role play for us and he was not just acting.  He was called to serve his brothers as a living icon of a saint.  He entered into the moment with great reverence and a desire to do honor to the memory of St. Francis, charity to his brothers and give glory to God.

The Liturgy of the Hours continued as usual and Father Superior preached after the psalms.  The sermon touched on sin, atonement, death, judgment, purgatory, heaven and hell.  We reflected on the purpose of a Transitus.  We look at the death of our Seraphic Father to learn how to die like saints.  We ask ourselves the most important question in the world, “What would I leave behind, if tonight were my last night on earth?  Would I leave behind good seeds that would continue to grow into beautiful plants and fruit bearing trees or bad seeds that would continue to grow as weed that chokes the life out of everything around it, all in my honor?”  We know what kind of seeds Francis left behind, but as Francis said to the early brothers.  “I have done my part.  Now you must do yours.”  The brothers then knelt before the crucifix and with arms wide open, forming crosses with our bodies, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer five times for each of his five wounds, the wounds of love with which he signed St. Francis’ body.

There was also the reading of St. Francis’ Last Will and Testament, followed by a prayer that he wrote and his blessing to the City of Assisi seconds before he died.

We spent the rest of the evening at Anthony’s eating pizza, exchanging stories, laughing and just enjoying being together as brothers.  The secular brothers were blessed to have their wives and children to go home to after such a wonderful spiritual experience.  The regular brothers were also blessed.  We spoke about the blessings of celibacy and how it frees us to Dancing Friar

live as family with each other.  We talked about how much we love our family of Franciscans of Life, which not only includes secular and regular brothers, but it also includes our extended relatives, friends and the people whom we serve.  No one escaped the jocularity, not even Mother Angelica and the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration.  Friday night, everyone was Franciscan and every Franciscan around the world was remembered and some were roasted.

All I can add to this is what a blessing it is when we go back to the roots, recover what we were and move forward with confidence in God and love for each other.  Pray that God will give us many more years together and that we may preserve our simplicity so as not to become another institution in the Church.  We need living breathing icons, not more organizations and institutes.  Happy Feast of St. Francis to everyone.  Pax et Bonum.

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 2:40 AM  Leave a Comment  

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