Franciscans of Life in the Lord’s Garden


When a man who is discerning a vocation to consecrated life takes a close look at the Franciscans of Life, he may walk away thinking, “What do these guys do?”

Doing has become a trademark of modern society.  Everyone wants to see something happen.  We have  become an “Outcome Oriented Society”.  We fail to understand the need for and the importance of that which nurtures the intellect, the will, and the soul.  The tendency today is to behave as if we were “Transcendental Agnostics.”  Meaning, that we’re not firm believers in the existence of the transcendent, much less in its importance.

If you’re looking to learn what there is beyond doing and planning, you may want to take a closer look at the Franciscans of Life.

FFV PATH (2)

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Here, you will find men who pray the Liturgy of the Hours five times a day.  Each “hour” takes about 20 – 30 minutes.  The Liturgy of the Hours gives structure to the day and allows the brothers to pray with the Universal Church making use of the psalms, biblical canticles and readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and the Church Fathers. There are no more perfect words on Earth to praise God than the Word of God itself.

Do you feel called to do penance for your sins and those who don’t do penance?  We do that, too.  During the year, the Franciscans of Life abstain from meat every Wednesday and Friday.  We fast every Friday.

We also observe what St. Francis referred to as the “Three Lents”. From the Feast of the Archangels (Sep 29) to the Feast of St. Martin of Tours (Nov 11), we fast and abstain on Wednesdays and Fridays, again during Advent and again during the Great Lent.

When a man is received as a postulant, he receives a small notebook called “The Culpa”.  Every day he records his imperfections against the Holy Rule of St. Francis, the Constitutions of the Franciscans of Life, the wishes of the Superior, and any external fault against God and neighbor.

CROWN OF THORNS (2)

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

The Regular Brothers hold a Chapter of Faults on Friday night, at the beginning of Compline.  Each man kneels in the presence of his brothers and proclaims his faults.  The Superior offers him spiritual guidance and assigns him a light penance to do, so that he may grow in the perfection of love, as did Our Holy Father Francis.

CHALICE 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Daily, each brother carves 30 minutes into his day for spiritual reading and silent prayer, or for Lectio Divina (prayer with the Scriptures).  Also, on their way home from an apostolate, the brother stops at the church on his route to spend time in contemplation with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  The celebration of the mass is the crowning point of the day.  Because of the different work schedules, the brothers attend an evening mass during the week.

But not everything is prayer.  The day has 24-hours.  We make sure that we spend at least an hour of our evening together, doing something fun, from playing a game to watching a video on a DVD.  We do not watch TV, read newspapers or magazines.  Nor do we read blogs on the Internet.  The Superior goes through the news and shares with the Fraternity that which everyone should know, world situations that need prayer and penance, and things that happen in the Church that filter down to our daily lives (not the gossip of the Vatican;  ee have enough gossip in Florida, should we be hungry for useless and often detrimental conversation).

Postulants, novices and junior brothers in temporary vows have frequent formation class in Franciscan history and spirituality, prayer, liturgy, Sacred Scripture, Canon Law, and the writings of the early fathers of the Church.  For higher levels of theology, the brothers may attend a graduate school of theology where the theology faculty has taken the Oath of Fidelity to Catholic Teaching and to the Magisterium as described in Ex Corde and commanded in Canon Law.

You may ask, do the brothers have time to do anything else?  Of course, we do and we do plenty.

APPLE

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

We teach poorer students at community colleges.  These are students who cannot afford the prohibitive cost of college education and are often thrown into community colleges that offer about the same academic rigor as a high school.  Our brothers bring academic excellence to those who can’t afford to pay for it.  While they’re at it, they take advantage of every opportunity to engage the students in thought-provoking discussions.  Not everything is memorization.  Some things in life require critical thinking and prudence.

SHADOWS

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

There are brothers who run Project Joseph, a parenting program for fathers in crisis pregnancies.  These are classes, counseling sessions, material assistance, and anything else that it takes to help a good man become a better and holier father.

We take the Holy Eucharist to the hospital and spend time with the patients and families.  It is not a delivery service.  It is a pastoral ministry.  We pray, talk, listen, console, and offer hope.  Sometimes, an opportunity to offer moral guidance to healthcare professionals presents itself.   We never let that pass.

Brothers also teach Sacred Scripture to middle school students.  So much of religious education today needs to be supported by good theology and Scripture.  Otherwise, the presentations that some books offer from the Old Testament are like what can be found in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

cloud 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Very often, people write or call for assistance.  These are immigrants who are homeless, unemployed, or who have been abused.  The brothers serve as conduits to community resources.  But the relationship does not stop with a referral to an agency.  The brother engages the seeker into dialogue, eventually touching on matters of faith and morals.

We are gathering material and resources to open our first “learning room”.  The concept is based on the one-room school house.  With the help of volunteers, the brothers hope to provide employment skills to those who are seeking.  Hopefully, they will invite us into their homes and their lives, where we do the real work on the salvation of souls.

Did I mention that the Franciscans of Life own nothing individually or in common?  We live in rented houses, share two cars, and each brother has three outfits in his entire wardrobe.  No one owns computers, televisions, radios, cell phones, iPads, and other gadgets.  When necessary, we buy them for the use of all.  When they are no longer needed, they are stored until someone needs it.  We don’t even own the bed in which we sleep.  When we move, the bed stays behind.

Only the Immaculate knows where she wants us to be.  She is the Mistress of God’s Garden

MY GARDEN

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Visit our Vocations page here!

Note: the artwork above is copyrighted because it is being produced by one of the brothers for use in our website and other media. If you wish to re-use any of our artwork or wish to learn more about it, contact us.

CANTEMOS AL AMOR


Kazimierowski_original_image_English_subtitleHay un himno clásico que dice, “Cantemos al amor de los amores . . . .”  En los momentos más difíciles de nuestra historia mundial y nuestra historia individual, estas palabras siempre han sido para mí palabras de gran aliento y ánimo.  En mi vida he perdido a seres queridos.  Algunos han muerto en tragedias, otros por edad, otros por enfermedad, y algunos por negligencia humana.  También he sufrido pérdidas económicas.

En una ocasión me encontraba viviendo y trabajando en un país de Suramérica donde ocurrió un golpe de estado.  Los extranjeros teníamos que salir del país cuanto antes posible.  Yo tenía una casa bien amueblada, dinero en el banco, recuerdos de muchos años: fotos, libros clásicos, documentos importantes.  Nada de eso podía sacar del país. Solo se nos permitía una maleta y una mochila por persona.  Si hubiese estado solo, quizás me hubiese quedado unos días más a ver como resultaban las cosas.  Pero no podía arriesgarlo. Mi hija se encontraba en otro país estudiando en la universidad.  Conmigo estaba mi hijo menor, que tenía doce años.  Sabía que tenía que salir hacia cualquier lugar donde mi niño y yo estaríamos a salvo y donde hubiera esperanza de volver a reunirnos con mi hija.

Es en este momento fue que Dios actuó en forma inesperada.  Cuando fui al cajero automático a retirar dinero para comprar los boletos en el aeropuerto, encontré que los bancos habían sido “congelados”.  No se podía retirar plata.  Llamé a uno de mis parientes mas proximos a pedirle que me ayudara, comprándome los boletos desde Estados Unidos.  Me respondió, “Eso no es asunto mío,” y comenzó a insultarme por mi “estupidez.”  “¿Quién te manda a servir a los pordioseros en un país del tercer mundo, pudiendo estar en Estados Unidos ganando buena plata y sin problemas políticos?”  No queriendo entrar en una discusión con él, simplemente le di las gracias y colgué el teléfono.

En ese momento, el diablo me tentó a la soberbia.  Me recordé cuando esa misma persona salió de la universidad sin trabajo, sin dinero y sin lugar donde vivir.  Durante seis meses vivió en mi casa.  Llegó el invierno y como no tenía un abrigo para el frío ni dinero para comprarlo, le compré uno como regalo de navidad.  Luego le di mi auto para que pudiera salir a entrevistas de trabajo.  Cuando me vinieron todas estas memorias, me di cuenta que no venían de Dios.  Dios no lleva contabilidad de las bendiciones que nos da.  Además, las bendiciones que Dios nos da son para el bien del prójimo.  En aquel entonces, el prójimo era él.  No podía negarle lo que Dios me había concedido para dar a otro cuando llegara el momento oportuno.

Sin pensarlo mucho, llamé a otro pariente proximo para pedirle ayuda.  Es un hombre adinerado.  Cuando le conté la situación y que tenía que salir del país urgentemente, me respondió, “Déjame pensarlo y yo te llamo.  El dinero que yo guardo es para mis hijos, no para darlo a otro.”   Yo sabía que esa avenida estaba cerrada.

Entonces me recordé de una buena amiga de muchos años.  Una viuda con dos hijas, que todavía vive en una casa humilde.  Me moría de pena, pero no me quedaba otro remedio que mendigar para salir de un país peligroso y sacar a mi hijo, aunque tuviera que dejar atrás miles de dólares en el banco y en propiedad.  No bien le conté mi situación a dicha amiga que me respondió, “No hay problema.  Ahora mismo llamo a la línea aérea y pago por teléfono con mi tarjeta de crédito.”

Al día siguiente, me encontré en un vuelo con destino a Miami, con mi niño de doce años que dormía con su cabeza apoyado de mí.  Por curiosidad, abrí su mochila y encontré un oso que su primo le regaló cuando cumplió un año y unos juegos de video.  Simplemente me sonreí, pues la Virgen protegió la inocencia de su niñez apesar de todo lo que estaba sucediendo.

En ese momento, mirando a las nubes sobre las cuales volábamos, escuche con los oídos de corazón, “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.”

La historia no termina ahí.  Al llegar a Miami, me recibió un pariente que yo había llamado para que me dejara pasar unos días en su casa en lo que encontraba trabajo y vivienda.  Cuando llegamos a la casa, nos asignó a dormir en un balcón encerrado, sin aire acondicionado…y a dormir en un sofá con mi hijo.  Así vivimos durante seis meses.  Cada noche, antes de dormir, el himno venía a mi mente.  “Cantemos al amor de los amores.  Dios está aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Durante ese intervalo recibí una llamada de mi hermano.  “Mamá murió hace dos días.”  Me quedé atónito.  Era lo menos que esperaba.  Me encontraba sin techo, con un niño de doce años, sin trabajo y sin dinero, y ahora con la sorpresa que mi mamá había muerto.  Yo no tenía un centavo para comprar un pasaje y llegar a sus exequias.

Recuerdo haber acariciado el Tau (cruz franciscana en forma de la letra T).  Contacte’ un amigo que me presto el dinero para viajar al funeral de mi madre.  Por todo el camino, lo único que pasaba por mi mente era “Dios está Aquí.  Bendecid al Señor.”

Al fin conseguí empleo como profesor de ciencias en una escuela estatal.  La educación primaria no es mi especialidad, pero conozco las ciencias, así que pude enseñar el curso hasta encontrar un trabajo en mi campo.  Alquilamos una casita, que luego compramos.  Por un mes dormimos en el sofá que nuestro pariente no regaló, hasta cobrar mi primer mes y comprar camas para mi hijo y para mi.

Comparto todas estas cosas, no para que me tengan pena.  Al contrario, es mi gran deseo compartir con todo el que lea este blog que los golpes de la vida son golpes que Dios permite para purificar el alma.

Mientras más sufrimos en este mundo, con agradecimiento y sin ira y rebeldía, menos sufriremos nosotros y nuestros seres queridos en el Purgatorio.  Cada sufrimiento sirve para limpiarnos y purificar a nuestros seres queridos que están en el Purgatorio y dependen de nuestros sacrificios.  Nuestra rebeldía no les ayuda en nada.

Creo que es por eso que, a pesar de todos los momentos difíciles que he experimentado, tanto los que comparto aquí como los que no tengo tiempo para compartir, creo firmemente que no fueron casualidades.  Fueron oportunidades que Dios me dio para purificarme y para ayudar a purificar a las almas en el purgatorio.

Cuando se presentan estas oportunidades, no las debemos desperdiciar con ira y rebeldía.  Durante estos momentos Cristo Crucificado está muy cerca, permitiendo el sufrimiento y sosteniéndonos.  Aunque nos sentimos que nuestro corazón está rompiendose en pequeños pedacitos, nuestra alma es intocable y es afectada o por el pecado de rebeldía o por la gracia de la presencia de Dios… él es el amor de nuestros amores, y su presencia es nuestra verdadera posesión, no lo que hemos perdido o dejado atrás.  Todo eso le pertenece a Dios!

Cantemos al Amor de los Amores

¡cantemos al Señor!

Dios está aquí, venid adoradores…

¡Adoremos a Cristo Redentor!

POTPOURRI OF ALL THINGS POSSIBLE


Baptism In The Spirit

Last evening, I was privileged to attend the ritual called “Baptism In The Spirit” at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines, Florida.  It was an amazing experience.

There are those who don’t know much about the Charismatic Movement and others who thinking they know denounce it as being “Protestant” or “pure drama.”  What I witnessed was far from Protestant, even High Protestant, and was very Catholic.  There was no charlatanry here.

The evening began with quiet prayer time while we listened to Gregorian Chant in the background.  The mood was “somber”, but not macabre.  Without a pause, the Holy Rosary followed the quiet prayer time.

Then came the clergy, the pastor and two deacons, wearing albs and stoles.  The pastor, Rev. Jeff McCormick, opened with prayer and reflection.  A reading from Luke’s account of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, followed.

I didn’t see any hysteria, shouting, rolling on the floor or levitation.  I saw more than 100 Catholic men and women, most of whom I have personally known for 15-years, quietly praying. 

The leaders placed a large basin of water and fresh towels at the front of the Church (not in the sanctuary). Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner, explained to the congregation that they were not receiving the sacraments of Baptism or Confirmation.  These they had already received, through which they received the Holy Spirit.  The purpose of reverently walking up to the front and placing one’s hands in the basin of water was a moment of recollection and thanksgiving for the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, effected in the Sacrament of Confirmation, which brings to fulfillment the journey of initiation into the Catholic Church that began at Baptism.

The congregation was encouraged to remain in prayer and to ask God to help each individual become aware of the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, aware of the gifts that we receive from the Holy Spirit and to ask God to help each person tap into whatever gift the Holy Spirit wants him or her to put at the service of the Church.

Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner

Rev. Mr. Pierre Douyon

Those who were to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” were invited to come forward where the Rev. Mr. Scott Joiner and Rev. Mr. Pierre Douyon, signed them with the sign of the Holy Cross, reminding them of their Baptism and Confirmation, where they were welcomed into the Church and sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Now, they were being challenged to pray for the grace to tap into the gifts of the Holy Spirit and use whichever gift God wants to accentuate for the salvation of the individual’s soul and the good of the Church.

Finally, stations were set up in different parts of the Church.  Each candidate voluntarily approached a team who prayed with him and over him.  Some team members held the candidates hands, others place a hand on the candidate, and others simply prayed.  Any and all physical contact between the candidate and the team respected the candidate’s comfort level.  It was at this point where the Lord was asked to open the heart and mind of each candidate and to help him cast into the deep for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit already present in the soul through the sacraments.

Praying over Br. Bernardo

I saw flowing tears, bright smiles, faces that seemed relaxed and relieved of heavy burdens and other faces deep in silent contemplation.

A hymn and prayer followed the “Baptism”.  The evening concluded with everyone praising and thanking God for his love and mercy which endures forever.  Father Jeff gave the final blessing, which was followed by another song and lots of happy hugs and wishes for a goodnight.

Not only was I impressed by the depth of prayer that I witnessed, also how fully Catholic was the event.  I have never been to a prayer service at a Protestant community with Gregorian Chant, the Holy Rosary, and three validly ordained clerics, with a final blessing by a priest.

After the experience, one of our brothers, who had attended the six-week formation seminar that led to this beautiful and prayerful turning of the page, to begin a new chapter in the Christian journey, treated ourselves to a fish sandwich at McDonald’s while Brother explained his thoughts and experience.

While in prayer the Lord pointed out the areas in his life that need attention, confession, more prayer and thanksgiving for God’s many blessings.  St. Benedict would describe what Brother experienced as a plan for the “conversion of manners.”  Just to be clear, St. Benedict was not talking about Emily Post and etiquette, but the manner in which we live out our vocation.

I am grateful to God and the local Charismatic community.  I had been through “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” 23-years ago.  Last night reawakened my awareness of God’s proximity and the gifts that he places in our hearts, minds, and hands for the sanctification of the Body.

Symbol for St. John the Evangelist -- The Soaring Eagle

St. John the Evangelist — The Soaring Eagle

As John said in the last chapter of his Gospel, It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true,” (Chap 21:24).

For whom are you looking?

Brother makes profession of vows in the hands of the superior

If you’re a man between the ages of 18 and 50, single, without dependent minors and feel that your life is missing something, maybe what you’re missing is COMMITMENT TO THE SACRED.

The Franciscans of Life have consecrated men who make vows of obedience, poverty and celibate chastity.  We live in a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with the Voiceless Christ, in the manner prescribed by the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi.  All the brothers consecrate themselves to the Immaculate using the formula developed by our brother and patron, St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, OFM Conv.

Cell

Our life is simple.  We own nothing.  We live in a borrowed home, share an old van, each brother has three sets of clothes, one pair of sandals and a pair of shoes.  No one has a private room.  We sleep in one room divided into cells by curtains.

Our Oratory

Each day the brothers pray five hours of the Divine Office, three of which they pray in community.  We have a period of silent prayer, spiritual reading, time to journal, and apostolic work with fathers in crisis pregnancies, the sick in the hospital, religious education, evangelization through the Internet, the terminally ill in hospice, and the immigrant poor.

Adoration of the Eucharist

The Sacrifice of the Mass is the highlight of our life of prayer and adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist.

We attend mass in both, the ordinary form of the Latin Rite and the Traditional Latin Mass.  Occasionally, we attend mass in one of the Eastern Catholic rites, in imitation of our Holy Father St. Francis, a truly Catholic man who embraced the entire Church.

Our life in fraternity is dear to us.  We are aware that St. Francis did not set out to found a religious order.  He entered into a covenant relationship where he was the lover and Christ the beloved.  Other men saw him and liking what they saw, they joined him.  Slowly, they formed a family, known today as the Franciscan Family, with more than 100 independent orders and congregations all living the Gospel according to the Rule of St. Francis, but with some differences according to the apostolic needs of time and place and the gifts that each Franciscan brings to the table.

If this sounds like a way of life for you, write to franciscansoflife@gmail.com or call 786-495-3426 and visit our web page, http:/franciscansoflife.org.

Help Needed

Single or married men (age 18 – 60) to open “a room” to provide educational services to the immigrant poor.  These services include, but are not limited to:

  • English,
  • using the computer,
  • mathematics for daily life,
  • resume writing and job application,
  • interviewing skills,
  • policies and procedures in community healthcare for low income individuals,
  • policies and procedures for enrollment of immigrant children in public schools,
  • and evangelization.

Spiritual Works of Mercy To Instruct and to counsel

This is not a school, and formal education program, nor a tutoring center.  It’s simply a space in the local community that we call “The Room”.  The Room is a special place where immigrant poor can go when they need to learn something important for their survival and integration.

It’s a God-given opportunity to share our Catholic faith with those who ask.

To help us create The Room, please write to us at franciscansoflife@gmail.com or call us a 786-495-3426.

If you own a large space (house or business) that is accessible by bus and would like to lend it to us, for free, the Immaculate will mediate many graces for you and your loved ones, especially a deceased relative or friend.

All things are possible, if you do whatever my Son tells you.

Greater than the Sum of the Parts


English     Castellano

The most commonly used weapon today is probably the most harmful to the user as well as the victim.  The weapon is “negativity.”

Modern man seems to have mastered the art of criticizing, insulting, and belittling, which is different from critique and constructive criticism.  He finds fault in whatever he does not like.  Truth be told, not everything that we dislike is flawed.  I hate asparagus; but that does not mean that there is something wrong with this vegetable or with its consumption.  I simply do not like its taste and texture.

In simple English, we need to tone it down when we disapprove of something.  To be pro-life is to be pro-person.  Every person is part of the whole, with his virtues and faults.

We who find fault in everything we dislike can land on a slippery moral slope and we don’t realize it.  We begin to sound like self-appointed judges, jury and executioners.  This is that last thing that any man or woman of faith should be.  Jesus said, “Let him who has no sin throw the first stone.”

Granted, criticizing another person’s pet, house, or dinner party is not on the same scale as passing judgment on one who may have committed adultery.  But the matter is serious, though not as serious as adultery.  There are two moral issues here:  justice and charity.  They are the opposite sides of the same coin and they are to be taken very seriously, because Jesus did so.

When we criticize, insult or offend without reason, we are violating justice. When we say something about a person, group, event, organization or even the State, without full knowledge, we violate justice and charity.  Paul reminds the Ephesians, “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear, (4:29).

We tend to claim that life is flawed when things don’t go our way.  Even when the situation is not tragic or the situation is natural, like raining on a car that has just been washed.

Criticism becomes more serious when the person doing the criticizing lowers himself to using vulgarity and blasphemy.  Christ says it very clearly, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them,” (Matt 15:11).  We fall into this behavior very frequently.  When confronted about it, our immediate defense is to justify ourselves by punting the blame, “he made me do it,” or “she got me angry.”

Some people need to see and hear themselves on a DVD to know how they look and sound.  Most would be horrified.  Most human beings are decent people.  Many of these decent people have reckless tongues.  Thankfully, blasphemers and vulgar people do not make up much of any society.

A very reliable source once explained to me that in certain cultures, blasphemy is tolerated among adolescents as a sign of “manliness” or of approaching adulthood.  They take the name of the Lord in vain, they say vulgar things about the Holy Eucharist and the Virgin Mother of God.  Most of the time, these teens have no idea of the gravity involved here.  It does not change the fact that objectively they are committing mortal sin and that the adults around them have a moral duty to educated them on the Commandment, “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.  For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain,” (Ex 20:7).

We can’t go around speaking about God and other holy things as if God and neighbor were deaf.  Our neighbor may be deaf or daft, but God is neither.  Among the great religions of the world:  Christianity, Judaism and Islam, the name of God is sacred and some other names and titles are to be spoken with veneration, not anger, criticism, mockery or used to posture.  This begs the question.  Do we tolerate such inappropriate behavior because we fail to understand that culture should enhance human communication and respect for God and neighbor or is culture just about what’s “in” today?

Some of us have a nasty habit that needs to be controlled.  For some, it’s impossible to go a day without finding something wrong every hour on the hour for 24-hours.  Putting it mildly, we criticize, complain, insult, or curse something because we’re irritated.  Often, our irritation does not involve the target of our criticism or the target does not merit our criticism.

Some of us use negative comments to hide our feelings of inadequacy or to exalt ourselves.  Reckless criticism can be a very destructive form of pride.  It is so destructive that it pollutes the social environment in which we live and work.  If offends some and pushes away loved ones.

There are people who claim that they care not if others are offended.  This is a grave moral claim. St. Paul reminds the people of Corinth, Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it,” (1Cor 12:27).  One must wonder if the person who cares very little about offending another is deflecting fault or truly does not care.  If he does not care, how does such a person explain being part of Christ’s body?

We must never forget that we are part of the body we criticize, that we condemn, that we curse, we disfigure with pride and judgment, that we humiliate with actions and words.  We must remember that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  The whole is Christ himself.

 

 

FRANCIS OF ASSISI, EVERYONE’S SAINT


 Essay written in 2011

by +Dr. Franco Camarca (1950-2017)

Psychologist, Writer, Journalist

Father of Brother Bernardo, FFV


“The Providence, which rules the world…

…two Princes ordained in its behalf”.

Dante, Paradiso

Saint Francis of Assisi is perhaps the most “universal” Italian saint. We defined him “everyone’s Saint” to underscore this peculiarity of his person: venerated by Catholics but respected even by Muslims, when he joined a Crusade to preach the Good News, and studied by the Protestants, of whom Peter Sabatier wrote in 1893 the “Life” that has become a classic of world literature.

Assisi presents itself as a city dominated by a castle and surrounded by towers, fortified walls, and other constructions that immediately bring war to mind. Francis, of wealthy merchant family, contributed to those constructions, probably to defend the city against Perugia in one of the many wars that characterized his time. Francis lived between the 1100s and the 1200s: a time of wars between Christians and Saracens, Empire and Church, city and city, for prestige and commercial predominance. In the war against Perugia he was made prisoner for two years, 1202-03, and he was also sick for a long time. Once healed, he threw himself into a new adventure, but at Spoleto he was stopped by a new illness and by a vision that invited him to follow the example of Jesus and “rebuild the Church”.

What was the situation of the Church in that epoch?

Let’s briefly say that there was a deep popular displeasure against the excesses of wealth and corruption that characterized the high clergy. Preachers in the public squares condemned all of it, reminding all of the simple life preached by the Gospel. In Italy in the XI and XII centuries many social movements were born which united politics and religion, since political freedom and religious purity were values deeply sought after by the people.

Thus Dante wrote in Canto XI of “Paradiso”:

The Providence, which rules the world…

…two Princes ordained in its behalf,

who should serve it as guides on either side.

 (Verses 28 & 35-36) 

 

The “guides” to whom Dante refers are Saint Francis and Saint Dominic. Three more centuries awaited the necessary Reform of the Council of Trent, and a number of historians agree that without those powers of new purity triggered by the Franciscan and Dominican movements the Church would have suffered very grave damages.

His first companions and biographers called Francis “the herald of Christ”, “the invincible knight”, and the said he was “armed with the weapons of Christ”. In another contemporary work, “Speculum perfectionis”, he is compared with his disciples to the Knights of the Round Table. And the spouse – “dominam”, as one of his biographers says – of such knight was poverty, who appears symbolically in classical vestments in the frescoes of the great Giotto.

The Order of friars minor, his Rule, was approved by pope Innocent III, who also gave them permission to preach. Before we expose our thoughts on the Saint let us briefly mention some biographical notes, referring to the historical data of Martignetti (Italian Encyclopedia). Returned to Assisi, Francis founded with Saint Clare the “second order of the poor clares” and then went to preach the Gospel amidst the Saracens. His followers grew fast, reaching the thousands, but the Saint went back to preach to Egypt, where he was honored by the Sultan, and in Palestine. Returned to Italy in 1220 and leaving the direction of the Order to Pietro Cattani and eventually to friar Elias, he prepared the “first Rule” (1221) and then dictated the text of the “Second [Third] Rule” that pope Honorius III approved in 1223. Continuing in an intense spiritual life which included preaching – which did not impeded him to ‘invent’ in 1222 the Crèche that became one of the most intimate representations of Christmas – he founded the “Third order of the penitents”.

We thus reach 1224, when in a spiritual retreat of fasting on mount la Verna he received the stigmata.

      Then we find his autograph writings, the “Laudes Dei” and the “Canticle of brother Sun” in which, according to authoritative reviewers, “the rigid Benedictine spirituality is overcome in favor of a new conception of Creation characterized by an exaltation of a sense of universal brotherhood”, and, we think, of a sort of mystical fusion with nature and thus with the omnipresent God.

The hymn begins with an invocation to God, followed by the sun “beautiful and radiant”, the moon and the stars “clear and precious and beautiful”; then the four elements: the earth, the water “useful and humble and precious and chaste”, the fire “beautiful and playful and robust and strong”, and the air.

Our Prezzolini, faculty of Columbia University, mentions that the adjectives applied by the Saint reveal a new interpretation of Nature and place it in a new relationship with Man. The hymn is not written in Latin but in the vulgate language of the people of Umbria, which for the first time assumes an artistic form, although preserving the simplicity and characteristics of the local dialect. The language is mixed with Latinized words; the verses do not have a regular metric yet there are many rhymes and assonances. The epilogue, according to Prezzolini, was added at the nearing of the Saint’s death in 1226, a death that Francis calls “sister”.

It is worth mentioning what Sapegno recalls in his History of literature: “It is certain that the hymn of grace, raised to the Creator by a beautiful world, admirable in its harmony and its ends, finds its roots not in an easy and superficial enthusiasm, but in the “labor pains” of ascesis and penance, from which the soul resurrects renewed, capable of contemplating the things and events of the earth with new, peaceful, and joyful eyes. The simple poetry of the Saint translates itself in the adjectives that accompany one step at a time the evocation of the creatures and they underscore the poetic aspect […] but the power and resonance of the hymn resides instead in the deep intimacy and novelty of the religious feeling that pervades it, outside and in a certain sense above pure poetry”.

The behavior of Saint Francis towards animals, with whom he spoke (like the wolf of Gubbio) opened a new field in painting: Giotto and his successors felt a great influence and even the architectonic structures of the churches of the Franciscan order displayed a new disposition of the altars, a new amplitude of the walls, a significant austerity in their entire edification.

Towards the end of his life, with a serious illness in his eyes, Francis returned to Assisi and asked to be taken to Saint Mary of the Angels, where lying on the bare ground he reached the Lord that he so much loved in 1226.

Saint Francis was canonized by Gregory IX in 1228. His feast in the Catholic Church is October 4th and Pope Pius XII proclaimed him, with Saint Catherine of Siena, “Patron of Italy”.

It is interesting to note that many centuries later the charm and personality of Saint Francis still live. His fame is worldwide. Saint Francis remains one of those figures of Western civilization without whom our history would not be complete.

The Franciscans are today, and we witness it by our personal and direct experience, an imperishable and daily example for all the orders.

The letting go of Saint Francis was in actuality acquisition of a superior freedom and his poverty was the acquisition of spiritual wealth, and Jesus rewarded him with the gift of the stigmata.

Published in: on May 9, 2017 at 3:09 AM  Comments Off on FRANCIS OF ASSISI, EVERYONE’S SAINT  

Divine Mercy Sunday – Remember Me


As we approach the Second Sunday of Easter, also known as Divine Mercy Sunday, it is important that we understand what the Lord Jesus meant when he spoke about mercy, in the Scriptures and to Sister Faustina.

There are some very conservative Catholics within the Traditionalist community who do not trust Sister Faustina’s visions and dialogue with Jesus.  At the other extreme, many Catholics focus solely on the humanitarian dimension of the Gospel and on the hot button issues of today; these Catholics have watered down God’s Mercy.  They have interpreted God’s mercy to mean the same as “good works”.  Neither group leaves room for God to be God.  God must do and speak according to a script as they conceive it.  In the end, both groups deny God’s freedom.

The extreme conservative asks for a reason behind Mercy Sunday.  After all, we have the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  The other extreme likes Divine Mercy Sunday, because it’s new and because it says what they want it to say about good works and it affirms their presumption of God’s forgiveness and mercy; so, they believe.

Original “Divine Mercy” painting prepared under the guidance of Sr. Faustina and her Spiritual Director

The truth is that God’s mercy is infinite and available to anyone who asks for it.  The infinity of God’s mercy should comfort us.  God’s mercy is infinitely greater than his creation.  Man is his crown jewel and we know that God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is of man’s doing, not God’s doing.  Since it is man who sins, then man is superior to sin or greater than sin.  This greatness does not relieve him of his responsibility.  On the contrary, it points to man’s sinful will and his obligation to atone and ask for mercy.

God’s mercy is infinite.  Man is God’s creation.  God is infinitely greater than man.  Sin is man’s creation.  Man is greater than sin.  If God is infinitely greater than man, then he is infinitely greater than sin.  The only sin that God cannot forgive is the one that we believe surpasses God’s power to forgive.  Such a mindset places the supremacy of sin over the breadth and scope of God’s mercy.  Believing that this is the case, the sinner fails to confess his sin, express contrition and ask for forgiveness.

First painting of the Sacred Heart (1780, Batoni), disapproved by Congregation of Rites. The Sacred Heart was first depicted alone. The Congregation of Rites approved these for private devotion, but required the visible figure of the Heart represented externally on the breast of Our Lord for public exposition and veneration.

To benefit from God’s mercy, man must have something to offer in exchange.  He offers contrition and a resolve not to sin again. Some will say, “I know that I’m going to fall again.  I’m human,” or “I have an addiction to a certain sinful behavior.”  This is not the time to worry about this.  We must focus on the present moment and surrender ourselves to God as we are.  We are sinners.  We are contrite and willing to do penance.  We ask for absolution, particularly in the confessional.  From that moment, we are free of sin.

We must never live recklessly, but we must not live in fear of the “next time I sin.”  The more we worry about the next time, the more likely we are to fall sooner.  The enemy has a way of taking advantage of our fears and using them against us, to the point that what we believe to be moral caution is a temptation; because our minds are not free of a particular sin.  We must place ourselves in the hands of the Immaculate and go forward, doing whatever he asks us to do in the present moment.

Not only is God’s mercy infinite, but it is always available.  God never tires of forgiving us.  It is we who tire of begging for forgiveness.  Let us take the example of the “good thief”.  At the eleventh hour he said to Jesus, Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”  The first two words say it all.  “Remember me”.  He believed in Christ’s mercy, even though he was about to die and no time to atone for his sins.

Painting of Christ and St. Dismas, the “Good Thief” – unknown author

Why does he request that Christ remember him?  Because deep in his heart he knows that Christ’s mercy is available for the asking, even when Christ himself was about to breathe his last dying breath.  Christ was on the cross to save the world, not to condemn it.  The Cross is the greatest sign of God’s mercy.

Only the perfect man can offer the perfect act of atonement for humanity’s sins.  Human parents could not conceive a perfect son.  However, God the Holy Spirit and Mary of Nazareth can and did do conceive such a perfect son.  He is Jesus Christ, the God-Man, the incarnation of the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  Out of mercy, God becomes man.  From his side, he poured blood and water, his humanity and his divinity, poured out of mercy for us.  It was not for his benefit.  Who in human history, besides the Immaculate Conception, has no need to appeal to God’s mercy?

Divine Mercy Sunday is neither a feel-good day for our acts of charity and compassion for our neighbor; nor is it a replacement for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  Mercy Sunday reminds us that we can trust Jesus, because he poured himself on the cross out of mercy for us and to prove the veracity of his sacrifice, he rose on the third day.  On Mercy Sunday, it is Jesus who speaks the words of the good thief, “Remember me.”  To which we respond, “Jesus I trust you.”

Depiction of the Sacred Heart attributed to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (c. 1685).

At the Foot of the Cross with Our Mother


If we believe what we pray and we pray according to our belief, is it reasonable to imagine that at the hour of our death, or that of a loved one, Mary will remain silent?  Is it reasonable to think that she will not intercede for every soul as it leaves the body?  Is it even imaginable to think that she is far away from any of us?

Holy Mary,

Mother of God,

Pray for us, sinners,

NOW,

And at the hour of our death.

Amen!

The idea that the Mother of God would ignore our prayer for the soul of a loved one and for our own is irrational.

It is reasonable to feel the pain of loss that Mary felt watching her son die on the cross.  Who can watch a son or daughter die and not feel as if the heart is being ripped out of her?  “Many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

The Immaculate Mother of God was not spared the pain of loss.  However, she chose to hurt and trust at the same time.“Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word,” (Luke 1:38).

The Sacred Scripture never says that the Blessed Virgin Mary didn’t suffer.

And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? Behold your father and I have sought you with great anxiety” (Luke 2:48).

Feeling concern and anxiety for a loved one does not have to conflict with the Faith.  Suffering, for oneself or a loved one, is the most noble sign of our humanity.  Only the man who reaching his full stature as a human being can suffer for another and trust that Christ will always respond to his mother’s intercession.

“Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them (Luke 2:51).

 “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’

 His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’   Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’

 And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So, they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew),” (John 2:3-9).

With a single sentence, the Immaculate convinces her compassionate Son.

It is important to remember that the “reception” at a Jewish wedding lasted an entire week.  Mary intercedes when they have run out of wine.  They had been drinking for a while, maybe more than a day.

If the Immaculate can open the door to her son’s heart for people who were drinking, having fun, and probably not paying much attention to Him, we can rest in the certainty that she has the key to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  No one who asks her to “pray for us sinners” will be denied her intercession.  Our Lord Jesus Christ will always hear his mother’s prayers and do whatever is for the greater glory of his Father and the salvation of souls.

Those who have not spoken to the Immaculate in a very long time (or never) can always begin today.  She is the mother with the Immaculate Heart.  She forgives!  She understands human weakness.  She has seen man’s lack of faith for centuries.  And she has been a witness to man’s greatest acts of cruelty and injustice.  Despite this, Mary allows us to take her into our very human homes, as sinful as they may be.

She needed only the word from her Son to crush the head of the Serpent that haunts us all. From that moment forward, she remains in our home as Mother.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”(John 19:26-27).

The Immaculate Mother whom we contemplate at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, is our Sorrowful Mother.  Her sorrow is caused by the sins that her Son must carry on his back and the penance that he must do purely out of love, not because he was guilty of any fault of his own.

There is a difference between a sorrowful mother and a pitiful mother.  The latter is one for whom we feel sorrow because she’s an imperfect and perhaps a mother who has not owned her maternity. Mary, on the other hand, is the mother who feels the pain of sin inflicted on her innocent Son.  She feels the weight of man’s sinfulness.  She experiences great sorrow, not for herself, but for the sinner redeemed by the suffering servant that she brought into the world.

There is no room in her Immaculate Heart for anything else than love, crushed by sorrow but never extinguished.  This makes it possible for her to enter our homes as Mother and mediate for us the graces that her Son earned through His most sorrowful Passion, till we reach that perfection of charity which is the perfect fulfillment of Our Lady’s one and only commandment: “Do whatever He tells you”. Let us make this our meditation as the Holy Week begins.


O Mary, conceived without sin,

pray for us that have recourse to you,

and for all those who do not have recourse to you,

especially the enemies of holy Church

and those recommended to you“.

-Prayer of the Knights of the Immaculate

Aftereffects of Holy Mass


The following is a non-exhaustive list of the aftereffects of Holy Mass:

  1. Peace:

My soul and my mind are at peace.  It shows in:

  • The ability to communicate with others (human and animal) in a peaceful manner.
  • The strength to brush off words, events and people that usually rattle me.
  • The absence of anger in my mind, words and actions.

  1. Humility:

The realization that I am what I am before God.  I am nothing more and nothing less, as evidenced by:

  • An effort to present myself to others as I really am:
    1. Without fears
    2. Without pride
    3. Without condescension
    4. With sincerity that is not blunt or offensive
  • Apologizing if I am in the wrong
  • Remembering that I don’t have to do battle with the world

  1. Charity:

I give more to others than what they expect, as evidenced by

  • Greeting with a smile
  • Waiting patiently in the parking lot
  • Yielding the right of way to others
  • Refrain from name calling or ridiculing others
  • Reminding myself that as I treat others, so I treat Christ
  • Avoiding sternness (intimidating rigidity)

  1. Faith:

No doubt that I have witnessed the sacrifice at Calvary and that I have received the body and blood of the living Christ:

  • Comfortable explaining the Eucharist to others
  • Not becoming upset if others are upset that I go to mass too often
  • Remembering that everything in life does not have to be explained to be believed, life has mysteries
  • Aware of God’s presence wherever I go and whatever I do, and of His awareness of my thoughts and intentions


If this is not happening, one must question him or herself: “Am I focusing on the right things?

These are also the sort of things the devout soul – especially the consecrated man or woman – must discuss with a spiritual director.

Published in: on April 3, 2017 at 1:00 AM  Comments (1)  

David and John


How-The-Human-Nervous-System-WorksDuring Lent, many of us agonize over what we should sacrifice during this holy period in preparation for the celebration of Easter.  Chocolate seems to be the most common “expiatory lamb.”

I’ve always wondered how giving up chocolate is a real penance.  I realize that for some people, chocolate is addictive, as is smoking for others.  But is the idea of penance to make ourselves miserable for misery’s sake or is the idea of penance to offer God something in atonement for our sins?

If we look at the Old Testament, David dressed in sackcloth and ashes as a sign of atonement and

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NATHAN REBUKING DAVID FOR HIS SIN

was excoriated by Nathan.  But it was a sign.  His atonement included much more than making a fashion statement.  David fasted.  He dealt more justly with his people, especially those whom he had offended.  He offered the animal sacrifice prescribed in the law.  Above all, he prayed.  Many of the psalms are the product of David’s intense life of penitential prayer.  David has become the model penitential man for the Jewish and Christian people.

 

Another personality that jumps out at us as a model penitent is John the Baptist.  The New Testament tells us that he came dressed in animal skins and ate bugs.  Yuck!  He preached conversion from sin.  His fight against sin cost him his head when he pointed out that Herod was living in an adulterous relationship with his sister-in-law.  David and John are still relevant penitent models.

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JOHN REBUKING HEROD ANTIPAS

David teaches us that atonement for sin goes beyond, “I’m sorry.”  There are consequences that the responsibly contrite person must assume.  This was the king who walked through his kingdom in sackcloth and ashes, dressed as a pauper instead of royal robes.  This was the king who humbled himself before his people admitting that he had sinned against God and against man.  He tried to do something to make it up to both God and man.  David understood and taught that true penance must cost us something and that it should offer a gift to God and man; but it had to be a gift that came from the penitent’s heart, not from his wallet.

John, on the other hand, had no sin for which to atone.  But he knew that many people around him needed to atone for sin.  He did penance for those who didn’t do penance for themselves.   Essential to a penitent life is to bear witness to the Truth.  John proclaims,

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“Behold the Lamb of God, and I must decrease so that he can increase.”  By decreasing, John, like David before him, surrenders the glory that comes from attention and admiration and directs it to God.

Our life should be an on-going Lent.  But during the Great Lent, 40 days before Easter, let us be truly sorry for our sins.  David and John are our models of penance.  We must present ourselves to the world, not in the best possible light, but as we really are, men and women who struggle with human weakness and sin, one hour at a time. True penance reaches out to those around us, especially those who are most in need of our compassion, the man and woman involved in abortion, the adolescent who is rebelling out of control, the neighbor who has lost a loved one, lost a job or is in deep financial crisis.  The person whom we fear is also worthy of our love and prayer, especially those who engage in acts of terrorism, those who molest children, or those who abuse their spouses.

In our family, there is always the one person who is the thorn in the side.  We must have the courage of

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THE INEVITABLE THORN

John and denounce his or her sin.  But we must also have the humility of David and admit that we too are sinners. Finally, let us not forget to proclaim the Truth.  God forgives and embraces a humble man.  Humility is being who we are in the sight of God.  Nothing else.

 

Published in: on March 2, 2017 at 12:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

You’re invited to a Lenten walk


san damianoIt feels as if we just took down the Christmas decorations, lights and trees.  Yet, Lent will be here in less than two weeks.

Lent is a time of penance.  For many people, the word “penance” is a negative word.  They choose to refer to Lent as a time of “conversion.”  The assumption being that every Catholic knows that the Church means conversion from sin to virtue; which has an a priori condition to it.  One must acknowledge one’s sins, ask for absolution in the Sacrament of Confession and have a firm resolve not to sin again.  Being human, we often fall into the same sinful hole from which we were just rescued by the Sacrament of Penance.  However, we keep trying.

Sorrow for our sins, confession, absolution and a firm resolution to avoid sin brings many graces.  The early Fathers of the Church taught us that the only way to overcome sin and not end up confessing the same sin time and time again was through concrete acts of penance, as we shall see below.

“Convert and believe in the Gospel” in plain English means, stop sinning and live per the Gospel.  The idea of believing in something with which we are unfamiliar and we don’t follow, is silly.

The Franciscans of Life suggest that you to try one or more of the following this Lent.  Don’t overwhelm yourself.  Usually that leads to failure, which leads to frustration and abandonment of our good intentions.  It’s like overfilling your plate at an “all you can eat buffet”.  You can only eat so much; the rest is thrown into the garbage.

We invite you and your friends to join the Franciscans of Life this Lent.   You can join us from your home.  If you you’re male and live in South Florida, you can join us on a Monday night family meeting.

First:  We’re going to begin with a good examination of conscience.  This means that we’re going to take inventory of the sins we have committed as well as the things that we should have done, but failed to do.  If you have poor memory, make a little list for yourself.  Make sure to dispose of it properly when you no longer need it.

Second:  We’re going to Confession as soon as we can get there.  As soon as we can get there means exactly that.  Go to confession as soon as there is a priest to absolve you.  Never put off what may never happen, if you get hit by a bus the day after tomorrow.  You had better go to confession tomorrow instead of postponing it until next week.

Third:  The Franciscans of Life invite you to join us in doing penance to atone for our sins.  The keyword here is ATONE.  We don’t do penance to feel good. We do penance, because we know that we have sinned and that we must make up for it.  If you steal from me, you must ask for forgiveness.  Justice demands that you return what you took or offer to pay for it.  The same is true with God and sin.  God forgives, but his justice demands that you make retribution for your sins.

Our first commitment this Lent is fasting and abstinence.  Every Wednesday and Friday, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, the brothers observe a fast and do not eat any kind of meat or meat product.  This does not mean that we replace steak with crab, lobster or baked salmon.  You may as well have the steak.  It’s probably cheaper.  Tuna, eggs, or simply a nice soup with bread is enough.  It’s not as if we were going to do this forever.    Obviously, we use common sense.  People with certain health conditions or those who are too young or too old should not engage in a fast. Maybe they can abstain from something else, such as the Internet.

Fourth:  Try to get an extra mass in at least once during the week.  If your schedule does not coincide with your parish’s daily mass schedule, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament at least once or twice a week.

Fifth:  Pray with your bible.  You can pray a psalm or two every day.  You can read a short passage from the scriptures and ask yourself how you would respond in a specific situation in the Bible.  Ask God for the grace to do so.  Storing up on grace for when we need it is the best savings plan around.

Sixth:  We’re going to be doing something concrete for those who are not as fortunate as we are.  We’re going to collect money to purchase soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes to those who have none.  We’re also going to be praying a weekly rosary for those who are being persecuted and those who are refugees and have no place to go.  We’re going to beg the Immaculate to help us help them.  If she wants to help them in her own way, that’s good too.  But we must never dump on God, Our Lady and the saints asking them to solve problems that we can help solve.  We start asking for the grace to find ways to reach out to our neighbor and we conclude by asking God to find another way, if He believes that it’s the better way to go.

You don’t have to live in our community house to join us.  If you care to join us in one or more of these penances during Lent, please let us know by writing to us at

email

Please include your first name only, age (so that we can offer you appropriate support) and anything else that you want to tell us about yourself.

Always your brother and servant,

Brother Jay, FFV, Superior

JPII W EUCHARIST
In a few weeks, we will be announcing the time and day for our evening of contemplation that we call Carceri (Prison) in honor of the Prisoner of Love.  Stay tuned in to this blog for that information.

 

 

 

Published in: on February 18, 2017 at 5:02 PM  Leave a Comment