A “Historical” Mass to “Look Back in order to Move Forward”


On Tuesday, August 15 we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The previous day (8/14) is the feast of our Patron St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was killed and cremated at Auschwitz on the eve of the Assumption.

In order to venerate him and Our Lady as a group, the Franciscans of Life made arrangements to attend a special event to which our community has been invited.

Gesu Church, the Jesuit parish in Downtown Miami, will be celebrating a Solemn High Mass in the “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite”, on Tuesday 8/15 at 7:15 PM. Our community was invited by the celebrant, Fr. Christian Saenz S.J.

The Celebrant and the Parish

Fr. Saenz, S.J. – (C) Natalia Selin

Fr. Saenz studied at Belen, joined the Society of Jesus in 2002 and was ordained by H.E. Archbishop Wenski in 2011. He currently resides in Rome, where he is pursuing graduate studies.

 

Gesu Church is the most ancient Catholic church in the Archdiocese of Miami. In fact, it pre-dates the establishment of the Archdiocese itself. Until 1952, the entire State was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of St. Augustine, and it was only in 1958 that H.E. Coleman Carroll was installed as the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Miami. It was declared an Archdiocese by 1968.

Stations of the Cross and Stained-Glass Windows at Gesu Church – (C) TripAdvisor

The Church, now a masterpiece of architecture with beautiful stained-glass windows, a majestic organ, and a beautiful Main Altar entirely in marble, was initially built in wood in 1896 by the Jesuits and was known as Holy Name Parish. A new church was built on land donated by Mr. Henry Flagler and by 1925 Gesu Parish was built as it is today. In 1974 it was added to the United States Register of Historic Places.

Front of the Church of Gesu – (C) Natalia Selin

The Liturgy

The liturgy we will attend is the old form of the mass, which Pope Benedict called “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite. This liturgy is the “father” of our current “ordinary form” of the Roman Rite, which was reformed by request of the Second Vatican Council under the authority of Blessed Paul VI.

There are many elements worthy of historical admiration and sacred respect in this form of the mass. For example, the exclusive use of the Latin language, once considered the only liturgical language in the West, as well as the use of Chant and the Organ.

Some elements will be easily recognizable as they carry (though simplified) into the current liturgy.

Some elements will seem new because they did not carry into the new liturgy or became optional. For example: the celebrant faces the Main Altar throughout most of the celebration and prays most of the mass in a low voice (“vox secreta”); alongside the priest and deacon there will be a “subdeacon” who will be tasked with handing the paten and other items to the deacon (the order of the subdeacon was abolished); before mass the celebrant will pray “at the foot of the altar” a psalm and an “act of contrition”; at the end of the mass the celebrant will read the “Last Gospel” (which is actually the first chapter of the Gospel of John); there is a special procession and ritual for the proclamation of the Gospel; there are no Prayers of the Faithful.

Priest (top right), Deacon (top left), Subdeacon (back, holding Paten with Humeral Veil) – (C) Natalia Selin

Some significant variations include: the Sign of Peace is exchanged only between the clerics; the Our Father is prayed aloud only by the priest with the exception of the very last sentence (“et libera nos a malo”, “and deliver us from evil”); the faithful are expected (but not obligated!) to receive Communion on the tongue and by kneeling on the communion rail.

One must attend such a liturgy with an open mindset of gratitude to the Church and to the Holy Spirit for:

(a) unifying the liturgy in the West through the Roman Rite after the Council of Trent (a work which is partially due to the Franciscans, to whom the Roman Rite was first entrusted and who spread it across Europe), placing an emphasis on the transcendence of God and Heaven;

(b) inspiring the Church to adapt to “unity in diversity” by carrying out a reform of the Roman Rite that takes into consideration the cultures, languages, and musical instruments of different peoples who are “one in the Spirit” just like the liturgy is the “One Sacrifice perpetuated throughout time and space”, thus emphasizing the immanence of the God-Man who becomes “all things to all men” and of the People who are “His body”.

It is very unfortunate that a lot of politics – especially in the United States – have mixed with the celebration and attendance of what is called simply “the TLM”. For this reason we do not discuss it often in our blog, though we have touched upon the topic and upon Traditionalist issues from time to time.

One question, however, is worth addressing: what is the official relationship of the Franciscans of Life with the “Traditional Latin Mass”?

First and foremost: we have a historical connection. The Roman Missal was preferred by the Council of Trent “thanks” to the early Franciscans who received it from the Holy Father and made it widespread throughout the Catholic world during 300 years, even though our communities always celebrated it in their own Franciscan way (called the Seraphic Mass) until after the Second Vatican Council. And it is worth of mention that the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission awaits approval from the Holy See for the new Roman-Seraphic Missal adjusted to our own liturgical calendar, never abolished.

St. Pio, OFM Cap., celebrating the Seraphic Mass (moment of the consecration of the host)

Second: our Constitutions define very clearly our brothers’ relationship with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“The Franciscans of Life are to attend mass together and in the Ordinary Form.

With the permission of the superior, they may attend and celebrate mass in the Extraordinary Form or invite a priest to celebrate it for them, as long as the harmony of the house is not affected.

However, the extraordinary should never become the ordinary.

If the Extraordinary Form is to be attended or used, let it be on a day when there is not a conflict with the two calendars so as to avoid missing a feast that is part of our Franciscan patrimony.”

Why would the harmony of the house be affected? Because, unfortunately, there are two common errors in which the inexperienced and unlearned fall:

(1) to consider the old Latin Mass a museum piece or something for nostalgic folks

(2) to consider the old Latin Mass as the highest expression/best mass/true mass/immemorial mass of the ages/mass of the saints.

Both positions are wrong and lead to a schismatic mindset, that is, a mindset of division and mutual rejection.

In 2000 years the Liturgy of the Church of our Lord has undergone a process of development which Pope Benedict describes as a hermeneutics of continuity. Each apostle handed down what he received, but in slightly different ways. A Coptic mass and a Syro-Malabar mass look nothing alike, yet one was handed down by St. Mark and the other by St. Thomas, and both are equally Catholic!

There are dozens of different ways to celebrate the mass in the East as well as in the West. Some religious orders also have their own missals and liturgical traditions.

After attending the TLM on August 15, whether one leaves mass inspired or bored, moved or untouched, one must keep in mind that the old rite was characterized by grandeur, rigidity, and a definite separation between the clergy and the laity. This was a result of 1500 years of historical development within the Western culture and also a response of the Counter-Reformation of Trent to the over-simplifications, customizations, and blending of roles of early Protestant sects.

After the two World Wars the world entered a new phase and the Second Vatican Council was inspired by God to “look back in order to move forward”.

New documents were unveiled which described the liturgy of the early Church (thus the Prayer of the Faithful were reintroduced, alongside the Sign of Peace).

Elements that were added over time and became redundant were removed (such as the reading of the Last Gospel after the mass has technically ended, or the tracing of many signs of the cross and continuous genuflecting).

A more active participation of the people, now mostly literate and with a Bible in their house, was promoted by celebrating the mass in the language of the people.

The “common priesthood” of all the baptized was emphasized by allowing the priest to celebrate mass facing the congregation (although this was always part of the liturgy, since even in the TLM the priest says “Orate fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile faciat apud Deum”, “Pray, brothers and sisters, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God”).

While preserving intact and unblemished the holiness of the ministerial priesthood of clerics, the Church did away with roles such as Minor Orders and instead brought forth the laity into the sanctuary through Instituted Lectors and Acolytes, as well as Extraordinary Ministers (women lectors, altar boys and girls, lay ministers of Holy Communion) whose function is to support the priest and deacon when necessary.

Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite celebrated by H.E. Thomas Wenski, Archbishop of Miami – (c) The Florida Catholic

It would be foolish to believe that the development of the liturgy has come to an end. The hermeneutics of continuity will not come to a halt until Christ returns in glory. The Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite will continue to influence each other, as will the Eastern and Western rites, and the secular and religious liturgies.

It is a great blessing to be able to “look back in order to move forward” and it is to be hoped that our participation will become more active in the Ordinary Form having “met its parents” and realizing that in this day and age we are called to be people open and receptive to the Holy Spirit “qui ubi vult, spirat” – “that blows wherever and however it wants”.

In the union of the Spirit, rigidity becomes unnecessary, and we are free to let the Spirit fill us with joy that at times expresses itself even loudly and in a way that appears confusing (didn’t King David in all his might dance before the Ark? Weren’t the Apostles called “drunk” after Pentecost, as they praised and worshiped as the Spirit guided them?)

On the other hand, today’s rituals are clearly defined by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) and they provide many options to the celebrant for many occasions, thus avoiding the need for novelties, local customs, and ad-libbing – all of which were quite common during the first 1500 years of liturgical development.

This is a splendid opportunity for two traditions, Jesuit and Franciscan, to celebrate together the Assumption of Our Lady using the liturgical form that we once had in common.

Published in: on August 5, 2017 at 2:26 AM  Comments (2)  

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.

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.

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).

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)  

Christmas in a Galaxy Not So Far Away


Earlier, one of our younger brothers asked me if I had an article to publish for the blog, because he noticed that I wrote several articles this week.  I told him that none of my current articles were Christmas material, to which the young brother asked me for permission to read my articles and determine for himself if any were good Christmas material.  Just a few minutes ago, he approached me and said, “You’re right, none of these articles is Christmas material.”

I was very touched by his interest in publishing a Christmas article written by me, given the fact that he is a much better writer than I am and a lot smarter, he can probably write a better article.

Suddenly, the thought hit me, “There is a dimension of Christmas that is rarely mentioned.”  During the Christmas season, we write beautiful cards and letters wishing our loved ones a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whatever the custom in your family may be.  We inject adrenaline into the household with shopping, travel plans or preparations to welcome friends and loved ones for the holidays.

When we go to Church, be it Midnight Mass or on Christmas Day, we hear beautiful sermons about the birth of Jesus, God’s love for humanity and how Christmas sets the stage for the Cross.  Let’s not forget that Jesus was a child born with a price on his head.  The Holy Family did not travel to Egypt to visit the great pyramids.  The Egyptians and the Canaanites were not the best of neighbors.

Mary and Joseph pick up and go to Egypt out of love for their son.  They wanted to protect him from Herod’s insecurities, which would have concluded in murdering the child along with the rest of the innocents at the time.

The more that I thought about these points and the fact that the young brother was so interested in publishing one of my articles, rather than using a piece of his own exemplary writing, spoke to me about the undercurrent of Christmas.  It is the undercurrent of Christmas that truly counts.  That undercurrent is love.

Just as an undercurrent draws in everything that gets close, so too does the love that is born at Christmas.   Brother wanted to publish one of my articles, not because I’m the best writer in the world.  We all know that’s not true.  He wanted to publish one of my articles because of love.  He loves his superior and his brother.  He rejoices when others learn from his superior’s writings and when they praise what they read.

In a simple request, Brother taught me that the Christmas spirit is truly the Love of God breaking into human history and radiating through every century, every culture and every human being to this day.  Christmas is not simply a happy holiday, it’s a celebration of generous love.  We keep Christmas alive not only when we give gifts, welcome guests or visit others.  Those are just starters.  Once the gifts are unwrapped and the greetings are over, what’s there besides food?

There is the love of God that has broken into our lives and is here to stay.  God’s love is not a feeling, but a living being whom the Father calls “Son.”  The Son of God wants to show all men that they are loved, not just give them a warm Christmas hug and a gift.  He wants to gaze into the eyes of our neighbor, through our eyes and say, “There is something special about you that I believe must be shared with the rest of the world.”

This faith in the giftedness of the brother is the highest expression of love on this side of Heaven.  It makes the birth of Christ closer to home, not as a story of long long ago in another galaxy far far away, as they say in Star Wars.  No, the birth of Christ is God saying to man, “You are special and I will prove it, by sharing in your humanity and lifting you up to my divinity.”

Brother’s request for an article was a subtle message that told me, “You’re special to me.”  This is the true message that the eternal Word of God says to mankind on Christmas morning.

Br. Jay

advent2016d

Is A Peaceful Christmas Possible This Year?


st joseph

Peace begins in the family

Normally, I prefer not to comment on the politics around me.  I’m not indifferent to right and wrong.  I’m indifferent to people who like to argue instead of engaging in a dialogue that arrives at some constructive conclusion.  I’m afraid that this Christmas is being marred by so much hatred that it would be irresponsible for any Franciscan not to say something and continue to refer to himself as a man of peace.

On the national front, we have hate speech, conspiracy theories and a great deal of anger concerning the results of the elections.  The fact is that no matter who won the election, there is no way that we would not be facing an uphill battle against sin and oppression of the voiceless, be they the preborn person or the immigrant and many others.  We do not achieve peace by exacerbating conflict, by throwing fuel into the fire.

We achieve peace first and foremost through prayer.  A man or woman who prays cultivates interior silence.  He who cultivates interior silence opens an interior space where he can hear his brothers and sisters.  The soul has many chambers.  There is also another chamber where we find true Wisdom.  In there, as well, one must be silent to hear the Word.  It is the living Word that gives us the peace that the world cannot give, but that we can share with the world.

This is discernment through contemplation.  It leads to answers that are appropriate for today’s concerns.  Without proper discernment and contemplation, we run the risk of providing our own answers to the problems of today.  So far, our answers have not taken us very far along the road to peace, interior and social peace.

There are Catholics who believe that they must provoke the Pope and the bishops until they bend or explode.  Whether the Pope and the bishops bend to a certain point of view or they lash out in anger and frustration, the fact remains that the Church does not win.  I’m not referring to the Mystical Body.  The Mystical Body is holy.  The Bride of Christ cannot be seduced to compromise with culture or to erupt in anger after being insulted and pushed around.

Those of us who make up the Body of Christ have not risen above our mortal nature.  Shouting insults at the pope and bishops, calling the pope a heretic and a Communist leaves greater scars in the minds and hearts of the faithful who read the blogosphere and listen to the podcasterium of our time.  Others who are not Catholic are looking at us and wondering, why in the world would they believe that we have the fullness of Truth, when we fail to give witness to charity, respect and humility.  Where is the prize to be won by such aggressive behavior?

There are many serious questions on the table that we pray the Holy Father will address, for the sake of clarity.  I believe that he is not a heretic and that it is not his intention to mislead the faithful and distort the faith.  We hope and pray that he shed some light on the questions on the table.

It is equally important that the faithful: lay, clergy and religious, not take it upon ourselves to speak out as if we were a newly instituted magisterium.  That’s giving in to the devil’s temptation to sow the seeds that divide rather than unite.

With terrorism surrounding us and taking innocent lives, is it necessary for Catholics and Americans to raise the level of anxiety with so much rhetoric that solves nothing and provokes every sin against virtue?

Published in: on December 16, 2016 at 2:46 AM  Leave a Comment  

“In God We Trust” Really?


I’ve been trying to keep up with news and thoughts by and about Catholics on Facebook.  However, I’m starting to feel somewhat disappointed.  It is naive to believe
St_Setonthat one is going to find much that is worthwhile on Facebook; but occasionally one runs into another person who thinks with clarity and shares his or her thoughts in such a way that encourages us to rise to higher moral ground and to a more intense life of virtue and prayer.

Having said this, I must confess that it has been a great disappointment to find the many priests and consecrated religious who post on Facebook talk about every social and civil ill, encourage people to rise in protest, at times denounce those who do evil, but something is obviously lacking from their posts.  God, Jesus, the Immaculate, prayer, the perfection of charity and atonement for one’s sins and those who don’t do penance.  These are never mentioned.

A good example of this gap in “Catholic” posts is found in discussions on discrimination and racism.  Since the US elections several Catholic bloggers have taken to the Internet to denounce racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, be due to religion, sex, sexual orientation or gender-dysphoria.   They have denounced politicians, Church hierarchy, business men and women, and other members of society for behaviors that are often cruel and unnecessary, or at times for failing to speak up for the voiceless.

Another important area of life in which we find protesting, finger pointing and even name calling is in religion.  We have politicized religion to such an extent that we now speak of fellow believers using popular political jargon:  liberals and conservatives or novus ordo and traditionalists.

Here too, the language is very often offensive.  At times, it offends because it is vulgar and sometimes it offends because words are used to assassinate someone’s character.  They don’t simply describe an immoral behavior or a statement that contradicts absolute truth.  These are words that encourage hatred.

It is important for all of us to be aware of injustices, abuses and disregard for God and man.  When priests and consecrated religious brothers or sisters write only about the evils and don’t mention what the Scriptures, Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium have to say about these things, we fail our people.  People have a right to expect clergy and religious to refer to faith to enlighten human life.  We don’t become priests or religious to be social workers or activists.  Ordination and consecrated life are not essential to the work of an activist.  Conviction is what matters.

I encourage clergy and religious who post on Facebook and in blogs to remember that faith enlightens reason.  Reason enlightened by faith strengthens convictions.  Christ did not come into the world to lead men into a godless revolution.  His followers were to be guided by their faith.  Their faith shed light on the rightness and wrongness around them.  Then they denounced what was wrong and defended what was right.  But they always proclaimed the faith that enlightened them.  Many were martyred for doing so, but there were more converts than martyrs.

Let us look at the world, including the Church, through the eyes of faith.  Let faith help us see what is good and what is evil.  Let faith supply the courage to fight for good and against evil.  Most importantly, never forget to share the faith that drives us, lest others see us as simple social activists or worse.

We who are priests or consecrated men and women have committed our lives to living according to the faith.  The Church has charged us with the duty to proclaim the perfection of charity and the Kingdom of God.  The first step in serving God is to find Him.  The search for God is the search for truth.  We must begin by discerning what God has called each of us to do and how God wants us to go about it.  For priests and religious, the call is not a call to godless social work or godless political activism.

We must never give up and never surrender our awareness of God’s presence in human affairs.  Going into battle for purely human reasons or as some say, for the sake of justice alone, is not the Gospel.  Christ exemplifies true justice.  The exercise of evangelical justice leads man back to the Father.  Christian justice and renewal is built on faith and preached with courage.  There is nothing courageous in insulting another person or group of people.  There is no hope when God is not part of the discussion for justice.

SPARE ME THE LITURGICAL GEOMETRY LESSON


People have been trying to impress upon me and others too, that the “new” form of the mass is horizontal whereas the traditional Latin mass is vertical.  I’ve given this a great deal of thought.  From the perspective of language (not Latin, but words) the traditional Latin mass orients the person’s focus toward the transcendent.  There is no mistake about this.

But there is another mistake, which is to say that the current form of the mass fails to orient us toward the transcendent.

There are two ways to “touch” the transcendent.  One can reach up, or that which is transcendent can reach down to man.  Whether man reaches up or God reaches down, the vertical dimension of worship and Catholic spirituality has never been abrogated.  Rather, the action can be uplifting or incarnational.

I think that it would be fair to say that today’s form of the mass, if and when it’s celebrated as per the General Instructions for the Roman Missal (GIRM), has a very dynamic vertical dimension, because it places the focus on God breaking into human history:  the Incarnation.

Everything begins with man reaching out to God asking for forgiveness, during the penitential rite.  This rite is found in both extraordinary and ordinary forms of the Roman rite.  Next, we move to sacred Scripture.  In the ordinary form of the mass, the scriptures are proclaimed in the language of the people.  In the TLM, Latin is usual.  For those who understand Latin or have a missal with the translation, following the proclamation of the scriptures is not a hardship.

Here is where the weakness of both those who love the extraordinary form and those who love the ordinary form of the mass is most visible.  Unfortunately, catechesis in  the Latin Church has been very weak in the area of Sacred Scripture.  To say that many of the religious education books published in the United States could have just as well been produced by Disney Enterprises would not be much of an overstatement.  They fail to convey  the fact that God speaks and we must listen and then respond.

For many Catholics, traditionalists and other, the proclamation of the Sacred Scripture is like story time in elementary school.  Our priests and deacons add to the reduction of the proclamation, because they often fail to mention that what we are about to hear and what we have heard is God’s voice, not the lector’s or the clergyman’s.  Those people are conduits through which God wants to speak to His people.  The vertical quality of the Word of God is obscured by a lack of appreciation on the part of the congregation, poor delivery from those who read it, and very often sermons or homilies that sound more like motivational talks than Divine messages from God to man.

Those who see and hear the voice of God in the proclamation of the Scriptures are definitely praying, because prayer is simply lifting one’s mind and heart to God.  We don’t have to do more.  God does the rest.  During the proclamation of the Scriptures and the homily God calls out to man, as he called out to Adam in the garden, to Abraham, Samuel, and Moses, and to the apostles.  He communicates His love for man and repeats His promise to be save us.

But God also communicates the conditions necessary for salvation.  He reveals to man the moral law that we must observe to be saved.  He offers the means to reconcile, if we violate that law.  He also reveals the consequences for those who violate the moral law and do not repent.

It is during this message that says, “I AM your God and you are my people,” that the soul is intimately tuned in to the voice of God.  But the soul must have a springboard to make the leap from here, into the Word of God.   The springboard for the soul is not an object, but awareness.  We must be aware that it is God who is speaking and that we are commanded to listen carefully.  This is not story time, history class, catechism class or motivational speech to improve your fortune and acquire a younger and better looking wife.  This is the literal voice of God that becomes Incarnate in the Word.  This Word will be offered to the Father in an unbloody sacrifice under the appearance of bread and wine.  Then again, God responds by offering us the Word as spiritual nourishment in Holy Communion.

The horizontal dimension of faith plays an important part in the ordinary form of the mass.  We come to God as a people to fulfill the two Commandments that God gives us, “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.”   To understand that we relate to each other, not by how we interact at mass, but because of who we ARE, the People of God, and to convert our manners so that everything we do and say reflects God rather than us, adds the horizontal dimension necessary to complete the cross.  This is called ecclesial consciousness.

The ordinary form of the mass provides us with the means to touch and be touched by the Transcendent who speaks directly to us through the Scriptures.  The Word that is proclaimed in the Scripture points our attention to the sacrifice on the altar, which is the life of the Word Himself laid down for our Redemption.  But the Word does not remain in the grave.  It rises and reveals himself to us, glorious and triumphant at every elevation of the sacred host.  He invites us to eat and drink His body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine.  Such great wonder and mystery becomes visible to those who are familiar with the Sacred Scripture, who have an ecclesial consciousness and who attend mass  to present themselves to God, not to fulfill an obligation or to experience the warmth and friendliness of parish life.  Parish life that nurtures the soul is that life which begins with the acknowledgement that the Word has become flesh and is speaking to us.  This is not a replay or a reading of some historical event.  This is reality, more real than the pains of a woman in labor.

 

Br. Jay