Disasters are Opportunities to Relive the Incarnation of Christ


Para Español Señale Aqui

When Hurricane Irma began to approach South Florida, as superior of the Franciscans of Life, I gave the brothers permission to leave Florida, seek shelter in a safer location, or remain at our community house.

For my part, I remained at our community house, also known as our “motherhouse”.  This is not a matter of being brave or a hero.  It’s our way to become one with the poor.  Our house is in a low-income community.  The people here don’t have enough money to go too far.  Their choices were to go to one of the local public school to seek shelter or to fortify their homes as best as possible and hunker down.

Pope Francis frequently speaks about going to the peripheries.  He’s also been known to use some “colorful” expressions such as “smelling like the sheep.”  Contrary to what many people may think, these ideas are not new.

In the Old Testament, we see Moses, who was brought up like a prince as an adopted son of the princess.  He goes out to the Jewish slaves, responding to God’s command to lead His people out of slavery.  God told Moses to lead His people out of slavery, but He did not take away his freedom.  Moses could have walked back into his comfort zone and let God find someone else to go out to the peripheries and deal with the uncouth, probably poor and sometimes unfaithful Jewish slaves.  In other words, the Jews in captivity were on the peripheries for many reasons.  They were slaves, foreigners, monotheistic, not as sophisticated as the Egyptians, and often very unfaithful to the faith.  But Moses went to them.  He took them out of Egypt and he died among them.

In the New Testament, Jesus goes out to the tax collectors, prostitutes, less than religious Samaritans, and to those rejected by society due to handicap or leprosy.  He becomes one with them.  In becoming one with them, He becomes the unblemished victim of human sinfulness, which was raised on a cross and offered for the many.

Finally, I want to mention St. Francis of Assisi.  Francis lived and served among the lepers.  He begged for his food like a common peasant, despite that he was the son of a wealthy merchant.  He and his brothers lived in very small and primitive shelters.  Often, they had no shelter.  They cuddled up under the awning of an entrance to avoid getting too wet by the rain.  There they spent the night.

When a man makes vows as a Franciscan of Life, the one thing that he knows coming in is that his life will never be the same.

He will leave behind everything that he thought was “normal” and “right”.  He embraces a life that can appear to be against nature.  Ours is a life lived in fraternity with the voiceless.  We vow to become one with them.  Our poverty is not imposed on us by man’s sins.  Our poverty is a gift from God.  We embrace it as the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity embraced our humanity.

Homeless man seeks shelter at a bus stop during Hurricane Irma.

It is important that people of all faith pray for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and soon, Hurricane Jose.  It is also important that those of us who have the means to do so, reach out to those who are the victims of these natural disasters.

All too often, some people sit on the chair of judgment as an “Apocalyptic Theologian”, making broad statements that “God is angry” or that “this is the great tribulation that John described in the Book of Revelation” or that “Our Lady of Fatima warned about this”.

The truth is that no one has intimate insight into the mind of God to know how God feels about anything that He has not disclosed through Revelation or the Church.  Nor does anyone have access to God’s plans for the purification of humanity.

To claim that Harvey, Irma, Jose, North Korea, and an earthquake in Mexico is God’s retribution, is arrogance.  Man is claiming to know the mind of God in a very specific situation.  Scripture tells us that no one knows the mind of God.  “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father,” (Mt 24:36).

Let us not presume to know the mind of God and why God allows these things to happen!  Let us also remember that natural disasters have been part of the earth’s history for as long as it has existed.  To point to those of today as the great punishment from God and the sign of the end times, is presumptuous.

One the other hand, it is never presumptuous to walk with those who suffer in these situations.  There are many ways to do this.  We can lend a hand to our neighbor preparing for a natural event or lost and confused after the tragedy.  We can invite others to pray that God will give each victim what he or she needs, not what we think the victims need.  We must avoid the temptation to dictate to God what He should give and withhold from others, as if we were His managers.

We are His servants.  We approach God.  We ask Him to hear us.  We offer our prayers of petition that God may provide for those in need what is best for them.  Along with this, we ask God to give us the grace, courage and generosity to reach out to those who have been hurt by these events.  God often wants us to reach out.  We see this in Matthew.  “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren.  You did it for me.”

Finally, from Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life):

“Some threats [to life] come from nature itself, but they are made worse by the culpable indifference and negligence of those who could in some cases remedy them,” (EV 10).

Let us never forget that we “were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [our] fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Pt 1:18-19).

We cannot just sit around trying to read God’s mind.  These events happen for the benefit of all.  The blood of Christ, while it reveals the grandeur of the Father’s love, shows how precious man is in God’s eyes and how priceless the value of his life.  If we see life as God sees it, then we don’t sit and prophesy Doomsday.  We do what God did.  We become incarnate among those who suffer, as Christ became incarnate and we suffer with and for them.

FRANCISCANS OF LIFE’S METHOD OF PRAYER


Para Español Señale Aqui

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment. I was sitting in the waiting area wearing my work habit. A very nice woman sat next to me and asked me about my clothes. I told her that  I was a consecrated layman. She didn’t understand that anyone who is not a deacon, priest or bishop is a layman. Though some distinction has been made between the universal laity and consecrated men and women. These constitute a very small, but special body within the larger body of lay people.

As the conversation continued, the nice lady asked me, “Do brothers pray?” To which I responded, with a smile, “I hope at least half of them do so.”

She proceeded to say that she didn’t know how to pray. That was my sign. I asked her if I could share a very simple method that the Franciscans of Life use. She became very interested and excited.

Our method can be used by anyone. I started to use it many years ago and some brothers learned it from me; but I don’t own it.

First: Begin by finding interior silence. If the environment around you is too noisy, find a quiet place. It need not always be a church or chapel if you can’t get to one. Once you get into the habit of prayer, you will be able to shut out the noise of the world, even if you’re at a soccer game between Rome and Brazil, the noisiest game to which I have ever been. I couldn’t hear a thing for two days.

Second: Say to yourself, “Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.” Even if it’s just you, all of us are always in the holy presence of God. This was something that St. John Baptist de La Salle, founder of the Christian Brothers taught them to say. Reminding myself that I am in the holy presence of God is like opening the front door of a house, looking outside and seeing beautiful green fields with flowers, butterflies and a gentle breeze. I refer to it as my “tiny taste of heaven.”

These words are going to trigger a different response from each person. The most important thing is the awareness of the OTHER. I deliberately wrote it in upper case. If we want to pray, we must be aware of the OTHERNESS of God. Acknowledging that there is someone bigger with us, is our first contact with God in prayer. There is nothing mystical here. You don’t see or hear anything. It’s an awareness of my presence before God’s infinite OTHERNESS.

Third: Just begin to speak as you speak to anyone else. St. Teresa of Avila taught us that prayer is speaking to a friend. She was famous for her short and very intimate chats with Christ. There was a time when she had a mishap and she turned her eyes upward and said, “Lord, it’s no wonder you don’t have many friends.” On another occasion things were not  going very well with a new foundation of a monastery. Again, she raised her eyes and said, “Why did you get me into this mess? I’m only an old woman.” She may have been in her late 40s or early 50s.

Fourth: Tell God about everything that’s going on, anything that has happened, or something that you anticipate, even good things, like visiting your family across the country. Of course, God knows these things. But there is a maternal side to God. Mothers often know the good and the bad in their children’s lives, before they’re told about it. But there is an experience of intimacy and love when the child tells Mom his story in his own words. God delights in hearing our words. The idea that God delights hearing me, stimulates me to tell him everything in detail, like a first-grader coming home from school.

Fifth: Like any other parent, God knows what we’ve done wrong, before we say anything. I remember walking into a room and getting THE LOOK from my mother, followed by, “What did you do?” You may have gotten away disguising the truth or withholding the truth from Mom, but you can’t do that with God. This is the time to talk about my faults, weaknesses, temptations and really tell God how I feel about these things. Sometimes, I do things that I feel are wrong, but I have no idea why I feel that way. Other times I do something that everyone says is wrong, and I don’t feel guilty. I talk to God about what I did, how I feel and I ask for his help to understand the truth of the matter. God does not expect us to have all the answers about good and evil, right and wrong, up and down. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have much need to talk to him at all. He would just wait until our final judgment to interact with us. But God knows us and loves us. He wants to help clear out the cobwebs in our heads.

Sixth: Ask God for the blessings that you and the world need. Don’t try to be God and pretend to know what everyone needs. “Please make my wife less angry,” or “Please get my father through surgery.“ We must believe that God knows what we and others need. If someone is going for surgery, pray for a good outcome. If someone is angry, pray that he may find interior peace. But never forget to ask God, “Give us whatever graces we need to do the right thing and to atone for any wrong that we have done.”

Seventh: Now it’s time to thank God and to tell him that we’ll be in touch later in the day. Notice that there are seven steps. Think of the Seven days of Creation, the Seven Joys of Mary, the Seven Last Words of Christ. Moments of grace seem to come in sevens.

 

Saint Clare and the Monstrance


ST CLAREOne the 11th of August, the Church remembers St. Clare of Assisi, the first woman to follow Francis of Assisi.  We consider her the spiritual mother of the Franciscan family.

We picture St. Clare holding a monstrance.  The reason being that when Assisi was under siege, St. Clare protected her monastery from the invaders by holding up the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament.  St. Clare never saw a monstrance.  The first monstrance does not appear until the 16th century.  Clare lived during the 13th century.

But this story tells us a great deal about this woman and about her strong Eucharistic Spirituality.  This event, her writings and her long hours of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from her sickbed, through a small window that allowed her to see the tabernacle in the monastery chapel, reveal a woman in love with Jesus Christ and to whom Christ was a real person physically present.

We’re often pensive about our favorite athlete, artist, actor, musician, political figure or even a friend or family member.  They are present in our mind, even if we never meet them.

Julian_Corpus_Christi

Digital Artist – Julian Rivera

For information on how to acquire a copy of this beautiful poster, contact us at franciscansoflife@gmail.com

Jesus, on the other hand, is often forgotten, even by Catholics who believe that he is physically, substantially and spiritually present in the Holy Eucharist.  The Apostles handed down to us what they received from Jesus himself, his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine, but truly different from bread and wine in substance.  The substance of what we see is Christ, alive and physically present.  In every tabernacle around the world, Jesus Christ is physically and wholly present.  Clare knew this.

St. Francis of Assisi often said that he saw nothing of the physical presence of Christ, in this world, except in the Eucharist.  He reminded his sons and daughters to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament francis and clareand to behave with grave reverence in the presence of a tabernacle.

We don’t know at what point in her life Clare’s faith in the true and proximate presence of Christ matured.  We know that she paid close attention to everything that Francis taught.  Francis’ admonitions regarding the awe that is due to the Blessed Sacrament and the unquestioning conviction that Christ is with us at all times and in all places, were not lost on Clare.

Many may ask, what did Clare achieve? Clare entered the Monastery of San Damiano at the age of 18 and never left it, not even upon her death.  Her body is still there.

Clare was not the foundress of great works of charity, education or a spiritual teacher as were Catherine, Teresa of Avila, Hildegard, and Therese.  However, she left us something that many Catholics overlook.

She left us an example of faith in the physical presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  She of one who, like the Virgin Mary, has no doubts about God’s promises.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live,  (Jn 14:18-19).

CHALICE 2

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

The life of Clare of Assisi challenges every Catholic to seek Christ in their lives, in the Holy Eucharist and everywhere.  When we can’t go to Christ, he comes to us.  We must make him the first love of our lives.

Everyone we love, we love because God loved us first.  Without Christ’s love, spouses wouldn’t love each other, parents and children would be simply housemates, and siblings may or may not be friends.   I can love because, Jesus Christ, who is Love made flesh, is closer than my deepest thoughts. His love for me pours out to others.

Clare understood this and shared it with the world.  It’s her legacy to the Church of her time and to the Church today.  In her letters to St. Agnes of Prague, a nun of her order, Clare wrote

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you, and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him.  And then, Place your mind before the mirror of eternity!  Place your soul in the brilliance of glory!  Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance.

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Today, it seems that taking life is easier and requires less moral reflection than bringing a life into the world.  We have forgotten the sanctity of life; but God never forgets.  His

divine nature co-exists with human nature in Jesus Christ, ever present among us.  Let us look upon him and place our desires and needs in his divine substance.

As we continue our mission to proclaim the Gospel of Life, we must always remember Jesus.  The Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity became human, died, rose from the dead and remains with us.   Like Clare, trust Him to defeat every form of evil.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Community Spring Activities


Spring has been a busy season for the Franciscans of Life! Care to join us for a quick overview of some of our more outstanding activities?

Trip to Virginia

During Holy Week two of our brothers traveled up north to visit relatives whose child, baby Katherine Marie Therese, was turning 6 months. We posted a blog article mentioning the trip. The highlight was participating in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism for the new member of the Church and of our little family (since in our family-oriented Franciscan tradition the parents and relatives of one brother are the parents and relatives of all the brothers).

However, it was also a formation trip.One of the travelers is a student-brother, in his second year of temporary vows. He is also a Project Joseph mentor. To be welcomed by a new, young, Catholic family and witness firsthand the joys and (good) struggles involved in caring for an infant is a very good formation experience for a young Regular brother.

He witnessed examples of good Catholic parents, gentle but firm, welcoming advice from their parents but tracing a clear line around “their” new family, working hard but still making time to foster the parent-child and parent-parent relationships, and also adjusting to a newly-bought home. During the whole time, the parents never argued (in fact, they were always either smiling or making an effort to be very kind despite being tired), they worked like a great team, shared night shifts, and, above all, they made it clear that the first relationship in the hierarchy is with the Church, then with each other, and finally, with their newborn child – a lesson that is very difficult and at times heroic in our highly secularized “first world”.

Since this brother is also an only son, it was also a deeply personal experience as he could witness the joy that it is to have a “little sister”. She would smile and even laugh every time brother walked within sight range, so he was very happy to be her “court jester”.

 

Project Joseph Workshop

On April 29, the Franciscans of Life offered a workshop for men who want to become mentors of Project Joseph, the program for fathers facing an unwanted or unexpected pregnancy that we run in joint venture with Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami. We usually offer two such workshops a year.

This year we received much support. A number of parishes included notices in their bulletins (some even an entire bulletin page), the Archdiocese included the announcement on the Florida Catholic and on the Pastoral Bulletin, and the Knights of Columbus promoted it through the three Counties. In fact, we even had a Knight from St. Petersburg who heard about it and decided to come learn more about the idea of reaching out to men in crisis pregnancies and help them become better men, better fathers.

The 4-hour workshop was attended by the Project Joseph mentors and a number of other interested people, and it included an overview by the program founder and current director, our superior Br. Jay, as well as a review of the procedures and documentation involved for each client offered by Br. Bernardo. Br. Chris assisted in assembling the folders with the material for the participants and also in the making of a video recording of the workshop (currently in post-production). Br. Leo welcomed in the participants, many of whom were visiting for the first time the new South Broward (Hollywood) Pregnancy Help Center, which kindly hosted the workshop.

One of the attendants, Ed Suazo, a Knight of Columbus who has been a long-time supporter of Respect Life Ministry, is in the process of starting Project Joseph at the new South Dade Pregnancy Help Center, some 10 blocks south of the main campus of the ever-expanding FIU. We are very happy to have him on board as Project Joseph mentor!

 

“New Skills for Adults Room”

Towards the end of May, CollegeDirect, a tutoring center for which one of our brothers was working part-time, announced that it was closing its doors. The brother involved was discussing the matter with his superior while washing dishes after the morning meal when, suddenly, he was struck by an idea. He asked his Superior permission to discuss an inspiration he had suddenly received.

Our community has always been involved in education at several levels, both in the apostolate and in the secular sphere. Could this expertise be put at the service of the immigrant poor, with the intercession of the Immaculate and the support of a kind benefactor?

Our Superior addressed a letter to the Director of CollegeDirect, whose name happens to be Lourdes. In it, he described the concept of the “New Skills for Adults Room”, a very small project that the Franciscans of Life and some volunteers would run free of charge, to serve adults who are struggling with basic English, Math, and computer literacy. Upon completion of the program, they would have the basic skills needed to prepare a résumé, be ready for a job interview, and re-launch themselves in the workplace. We know from our daily interaction with the population of Miami-Dade and Broward as well as with the newly-arrived immigrants from Haiti, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eurasia, that there is a great need for such a service.

We were hoping that CollegeDirect would donate a small part of their materials and assets towards the furnishing and startup of the “Room” (for it is our hope that the Immaculate will provide just one large room for us to run the program).

It turned out that Ms. Lourdes and the other parties involved in running CollegeDirect responded with the utmost kindness and generosity, providing us with a large donation of educational materials, a whiteboard, bookshelves, even some laptops and chairs, and they would have kindly donated more furniture except that we do not have the physical space to store the items!

As one of our brother continues to itemize everything we received from our kind benefactor and another brother prepares the Education Plan, we are very grateful to the Lord for the ushering of this wonderful little project and we now patiently await for the Immaculate to provide, whenever it be God’s will, the “Room” where our program will be able to help the immigrant poor and the refugee to “learn how to fish” in the vast ocean of a new country.

 

Prayer Days for Life and Jericho Walk

During the season of Lent, the Franciscans of Life individually prayed in front of abortuaries (places where abortion is performed). While in Broward a large number of vigils takes place before the Planned Parenthood abortuary in Pembroke Pines (also due to political reasons), the 40 Days for Life campaign focused on the abortuary in Hollywood, some 15 blocks east of the South Broward Respect Life Center, and the brothers focused on the relatively unknown abortuary of Miramar, “conveniently” located next to three fast-food stores, only some 10 blocks north-west of Saint Stephen parish. They also go to the other locations, but they focus on proclaiming the sanctity of life, offering support, and passing out literature of human development in the womb.

On one such occasion, one of our brothers noticed that the Center had locked its doors and was not letting clients in. The brother, who was holding a hand-made poster inviting people to reach out to him for support, took advantage of this window of opportunity to invite the clients standing by to go visit the nearby Respect Life Pregnancy Help Center. While some people ignored him and others called him a liar when he said we could help, brother kept making the point that they could always come back to the abortuary and they had nothing to lose in visiting the Pregnancy Help Center first.

The brother was about 100 feet away from the place, behind a railing, at the risk of falling into the canal running behind him, because the usual prayer spot is so far removed from the place that it offers virtually no chance of interacting with the clients. It turns out the brother was still too close… The abortuary, perhaps intimidated by brother’s imposing stature of 5 feet 5” and by his home-made poster board boldly stating in blue marker “WE CAN HELP YOU”, decided to lock down the center and call the police. Brother thought that as long as he kept behind the railing, he was not invading private property, but he was wrong. Two very kind officers approached brother and explained to him, with the help of digital imagery, that the lawful private property actually ended half-way inside the canal. That clarified why the prayer vigils were held on the other side of the canal! Brother apologized for his mistake and he was let go without any questioning, as he slowly tried not to embarrass himself by falling into the canal at the last moment. He is known to be clumsy.

After that, he moved to another abortion mill prayer spot where he could stand legitimately on the sidewalk about 15 feet from the entrance of the abortuary. He would offer fliers to the cars that stopped at the red light and to the people walking by. He even had a chance to interact with one of the staff members on lunch break. Brother, aware of the program run by pro-life advocate Abby Johnson to help clinic workers leave the abortion industry, spent the few seconds at his disposal to mention the program (abortionworker.com) and also to mention that he volunteers at a nearby pregnancy help center and distributes literature about human development in the womb. The worker was very kind and told brother: “I work there, but I wish more people would listen to you…”.

On another occasion, one of the brothers decided to simply read out loud the Letters of St. John and St. Paul in front of another abortion mill (relatively similar lawful distance). This time brother had a major surprise, as he interacted with a fellow pro-lifer who had come there with a sign as part as the 40 Days for Life campaign. During the short conversation, brother mentioned that he knew most people would ignore him, but that the Word of God is a seed planted, that gives fruit in due time, and that nobody knows if one of the clients of the abortion mill may, some thirty years down the road, realize the enormity of the evil of abortion and bitterly repent of her action carried out perhaps in the foolishness of youth and under the pressure of peers, parents, or partner. The fellow pro-lifer broke down in tears and “confessed” to brother that he was actually describing her – she had an abortion as a teenager and only decades later did she come to full knowledge of the Gospel of Life, repent of what she had done, and become a faithful Catholic and a dedicated supporter of the pro-life cause. Brother did not know what to say, other than to praise the Lord for His mercy and encourage her to continue on the journey of love and reparation that the Lord had led her on, in the certainty that He would bring to completion what He had begun.

After Lent, the brothers were involved in a number of other projects, but on June 11 they were invited to attend the “Jericho Walk”, a Eucharistic Procession sponsored by Respect Life Ministry and Nativity Catholic Church that involved walking seven times around the abortuary, peacefully and orderly, praying the Rosary while following the Most Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Our Lady.

Our superior Br. Jay insisted in attending the event, even though he has chronic pulmonary and cardiac conditions and has only left the wheelchair for a cane a few months ago. Pressured by the insistence of the brothers, he agreed to take a walker rather than the cane. He walked 30 blocks in total, without portable oxygen (nobody thought of picking up a portable tank on the way out of the motherhouse), and kindly refused a ride back from the abortuary to the Respect Life Center. The other brother that was with him was able to do a few more rounds and even to carry the wooden cross that followed behind the Blessed Sacrament and the statue of Our Lady.

Over a hundred people attended the march, which was very well organized, full of piety and reverence, rather than a crusade of self-appointed “warriors for life”. It seemed also that the political signs were absent, in favor of good old home-made signs that exalted the beauty of life and the help that was there for those who were in the often excruciating struggle of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. One sign, carried by a child ahead of the Most Blessed Sacrament, stole the brothers’ heart.

Other Events

You would think that three months would not be enough for more than what we have described, considering that the brothers spend most of their time in prayer and fraternity, and that they also work part-time as per the Testament or Last Will of Saint Francis. Yet, as one of the brothers always says, God made the time for more.

One of our pets, our little sister Tasha the Puggle, developed a worrisome cough and had to be taken to the vet and later tricked daily to take her medication (she is very smart and absolutely refused to take it unless it was wrapped in bread, cheese, pizza crust, or some other type of food, and she could not be easily fooled more than twice). Fortunately she is now fully recovered.

A video was produced for the short series “Musings of a Franciscan of Life” which offers a small window into the life of the brothers.

One of the brothers completed the Life in the Spirit seminar and was “baptized in the Holy Spirit”, as the Catholic Charismatic Renewal refers to the prayer service in which they pray that the Holy Spirit, received at Baptism and whose gifts were infused at Confirmation, would deign to stir the love of God in the heart of the participants and “renew their life” for the service of the Church.

Br. Leo continues in his tireless work of prayer (he is our “prayer warrior”) while occasionally supporting the families of the hospice where he used to work. When Br. Bernardo’s father passed away, he came to serve at the funeral mass as cross-bearer even though the night before he had broken one of his toes and could only walk with great pain. He is an example of meekness and humility to the brothers.

The Extern brothers also kept busy, especially Br. Luis who recently welcomed his 10th child, Annamarie and has been supporting one of his daughters to start a pro-life group at her school, and Br. Chris, who besides all we mentioned above has also been helping in the training of a new Project Joseph mentor and other activities inherent to his role as Community Vicar. Our latest newcomer, Tom, worked hard on his formation as aspirant after a long period of discernment with the fraternity, and asked to be admitted as a Postulant. He is a kind, generous soul and, as Br. Bernardo loves to say, has a smile that lights up the room.

 

Coming Soon – Steps Forward in Formation

We would love to tell you all about Br. Tom and the others who are renewing their Solemn Promise or their Temporary Profession in May and June, but… we won’t 🙂 At least, not yet.

More on this, and on upcoming events, in a follow-up article: Steps Forward in Formation. Follow us on our blog (check the redesigned home page for the “Subscribe” button on the right-hand column), our Youtube channel, and our Facebook group!

Please keep us in your prayers to the Immaculate (would you say a Hail Mary for us every day?) and if you can, please see our latest post in which, in the tradition of St. Francis, realizing we could not make ends meet we are begging you for anything you can spare so we can keep going. We do not ask for much, as we do not need much. May the Lord reward you abundantly for your love.

We Need Your Help Again :)


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Published in: on June 10, 2017 at 11:17 PM  Comments (2)  

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.

In Your Kindness, Remember…


We wish to inform our benefactors and friends of the passing of Dr. Franco Camarca, the father of our Brother Bernardo D’Carmine.

Dr. Camarca went to the Home of Our Heavenly Father on Saturday evening, after receiving the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church.  He passed away very peacefully in the presence of his loved ones.

He leaves behind his wife, his only son Brother Bernardo, and the Franciscan Brothers of Life. St. Francis of Assisi always taught us that the parents of one brother were the parents of all.

We were all blessed to have had Dr. Camarca in our lives.  Please keep him and us in your prayers.  Ask Dr. Camarca to pray for us as well.  Don’t forget, the souls in Purgatory can intercede for us.

Here is a biographical note written by Br. Bernardo and an essay on St. Francis written in 2011 by Dr. Camarca.

If you wish to send a spiritual gift, please follow this link.

You can also write to Br. Bernardo and his family via email or to this address:

Franciscans of Life

9461 Palm Cir S

Pembroke Pines, FL 33025

The funeral is being arranged through the courtesy and generosity of many friends and benefactors, in particular the Archdiocese of Miami, the Knights of Columbus, the deacons and priests at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church, Msgr. Oscar Castañeda, Chaplain at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Scarano Funeral Homes, Respect Life Ministry, and Franciscans of Life. To them the Camarca family wishes to offer their gratitude and appreciation.

 

 

 

 

The Franciscans of Life

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.”

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