“I want to send you all to Heaven!”


“[A] lovely, subdued melody floated through the forest above the solitary and forsaken little chapel of Our Lady of the Angels, just when a shepherd was passing by with his sheep. The shepherd turned pale and looked up at the fallen-in roof, but there was nothing to be seen. “Have they got an organ now?” he wondered. He pushed the little door open. All was dark and still within. Overhead the music was becoming more and more heavenly, as a hundred golden voices seemed to mingle in counterpoint. “Lord, how beautiful! It’s enough to make one want to die, it’s so beautiful!” he thought, for he was so moved that he could not utter a word. His heart told him what was happening…” 

From “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, Timmermans

August 2nd is coming along, and with it, two happy occasions – the “Great Pardon” (as the Portiuncula Indulgence is known in some places) and the “flocking” of the Franciscans of Life (regulars and externs) to the Motherhouse after a bit of a hiatus from community gatherings.

There will be a note of sadness, as our dearest brother Leo will not be with us for the first time…since his passing on May 26th of 2020. Four hundred years earlier, St. Philip Neri passed away on the very same day. Let’s pray for the repose of our dear brother Leo, and ask in a special way for the intercession of St. Philip, “Pippo Buono” as the Romans called him due to his kind and gentle disposition… All who knew our Brother Leo knew of his natural gentleness and kindness, which is what, perhaps, inspired our Superior to name him Leo at Novitiate, in honor of that first brother Leo, a gentle soul whom St. Francis used to call “ you little lamb of God”.

But this article – which from its prolixity you will most likely know is authored by brother Bernardo – is not so much about our community as it is about the Portiuncula Indulgence! We will go over the Porziuncola, “Santa Maria degli Angeli”, and then we will dig a bit more into the matter of indulgences – a matter of heavenly and motherly love – and its relationship to the wonderful Sacrament of Confession – so, please, stay with us!

On Saint Mary of the Angels, called Porziuncola (“little portion“)

 1704 illustration from “Collis Paradisi Amœnitas, seu Sacri Conventus Assisiensis Historiæ“, as found on p.107 of “The Story of Assisi” by Lina Duff Gordon

If we dig a bit, we find a nice summary by Pope Benedict XV on the salient points regarding this very special place, which we summarize below:

  • It is taught that in the days of Pope Liberius (IV century) pilgrims from Palestine brought here a fragment of the sepulcher of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that is to say, the place of the Assumption, and thus was the place named Saint Mary of the Angels.
  • Here St. Francis wrote the rule approved by Pope Innocent III (“admonished by divine vision”, writes Benedict XV).
  • Here Clare, the noble virgin of Assisi, having forsaken the world, was clothed in the poor Franciscan habit, and instituted the second Order.
  • Here also originated the Third Franciscan Order [note of clarification: that of the Penitents, whose ancient rule we follow].
  • By this place were the first Chapters of the Franciscan order, including the famous “Chapter of Matts” of Pentecost.
  • Here St. Francis, after refusing six times, finally agreed that he and the brothers would share a meal with St. Clare and the sisters. It is recounted that their souls glared so brightly that the people from the surrounding areas thought the forest was ablaze.
  • Here St. Francis had a vision of the Lord and Our Lady, and went to Perugia to implore Pope Honorius III in 1216 for a most extraordinary and unusual favor: “that anyone who comes [to the Portiuncola] confessed and penitent be absolved from the punishment and guilt from the day of baptism to the day and hour of entrance in said church”. Such an indulgence was unheard of in those days! Yet, three times did the Supreme Pontiff give his assent. Upon the Saint rejoicing and departing his presence, came the Pope’s affectionate remark and the Saint’s moving reply:
    • You simpleton, where are you going? What proof do you carry?
    • Your word suffices to me! I seek no further instrument, other than the Virgin Mary be the parchment, Christ the notary, and the Angels the witnesses!”.
      • There is a pious story coming from the nephew of one of the early brothers, who accompanied Francis back from Perugia to Assisi. They stopped to rest a while and, upon awakening, St. Francis said: “Brother Masseo,I tell you from God that the Indulgence that the Supreme Pontiff gave me is confirmed in heaven!
  • Here Francis stood by the entrance after returning from Perugia and, stretching his fatherly arms, said to all:

“I want to send you all to heaven!

I announce to you an Indulgence

which I obtained from the mouth of the Supreme Pontiff…”

St. Francis at the Portiuncola, 1226
  • Here Francis implored his Guardian and his brothers to take him to die. 
    • “No, no! To Our Lady of the Angels! – Francis begged – I want to die where I began!” (from “The Perfect Joy of St. Francis”, by Timmermans)
  • Here that he dictated his wondrous Testament: https://ofm.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Testament.pdf
  • Finally, here he died, naked on the floor (ref. Job 1:21), a broken, small 43-year-old man, marked with the Stigmata of the Lord he so loved, surrounded by his brothers who so loved him, under the loud warbling of hundreds of larks soaring heavenward…St. Francis of Assisi, whom Holy Church would call the Seraphic Father, the Alter Christus, but who, in his letters, introduced himself as little brother Francis….the little one….your servant…a worthless and weak man.

On the Great Pardon, or the Portiuncula Indulgence

One scholar wrote: 

“it seems incredible that a perpetual plenary indulgence with no attached condition of almsgiving or personal sacrifice should have been granted in favor of an obscure chapel in Umbria. Yet we have six sworn statements of contemporaries, regulations of the General Chapters of the Order, and 53 pontifical acts of the XIVth century either confirming it or defending it”.  

The Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Jan., 1939), p. 466

This is just as St. Francis had told Pope Honorius: “If it is the work of God, He will make it manifest” – and this He has done – through His Church – through the centuries!

Of this plenary indulgence can benefit the faithful – for themselves or for a deceased as suffrage

(a) either by directly visiting Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Porziuncola shrine it contains (in Assisi)

or (b) by visiting, within the US (to our understanding) a minor basilica, a cathedral, or a parish church.

The conditions, to our understanding, are as follows:

  • Receive absolution in sacramental Confession
    • (in the time period including the 8 days before and the 8 days after the visit of the church)
  • Attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion within the same time period
    • (although it is convenient that this occur on the day the work is performed)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • Visit the church
    • …where they will renew the profession of faith through the recitation of the Credo (which, to our understanding, can be either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed…).
    • …and they will recite a Pater (Our Father) to reaffirm their dignity as children of God received in Baptism
    • …and they will pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff, condition which is satisfied by reciting one Pater and one Ave, although one may also recite any other prayer if recited for this intention. This would also be fittingly performed on the same day.

On Indulgences in general, and Plenary Indulgences in particular – or, how to gain one

To benefit from an indulgence, the person must be baptized, must not be excommunicated, and hopefully in the state of grace. Furthermore, one must have the general intention of gaining the indulgence, and of course carry out the works mentioned above.

Most importantly, however, for the indulgence to be plenary and not partial, it requires the exclusion of all attachment to sin, even venial sin

This has been historically considered the most complex of the conditions: no man, however holy, can call himself free of sin, but many can honestly call themselves free of affection towards sin, to the best of their knowledge!

In 2004, the Apostolic Penitentiary used the following language:

…as long as they are totally free from any desire to relapse into sin…

https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/tribunals/apost_penit/documents/rc_trib_appen_doc_20041225_miraculorum-maximum_en.html

On SpiritualDirection.com (an apostolate of the Avila Institute by our kind friend Dan Burke) , Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC writes (we paraphrase!):

“The requirement is not “freedom from all sin“, rather, that “there is no sin which the soul is unwilling to renounce”.

A person should know if he’s in compliance, because an attachment implies a refusal to fix a situation – as when sometimes, deep down, we don’t want to let go of certain sins, even if “small”.

This is quite different from weakness, or habitual sin that is being battled…to souls in these situations, the Church is ready to aid!”

Confession, Reparation…and Indulgences – or, how they are closely related!

Pray to the good Lord to take away any desire, albeit small or hidden, for sins both grave and venial, and go as far as to bring forth in your heart a salutary hatred of sin, remembering that God is all-good and all-loving and that even the smallest sin displeases him. 

After all, what is an indulgence if not but a “continuation” of the Sacrament of Penance? That is to say, “a remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven”? 

We know that the matter of sacramental Confession is the acts of the penitent: contrition, confession and satisfaction.

say NO to sin!

We should strive to a perfect contrition (CCC 1452) and perfect contrition builds more and more on detachment from sin, first from the “great” sins and then from the “small” ones! A devout soul, then, should not find much difficulty in complying with the requirement to be detached from all sin. The rest of us should simply keep working our way there, knowing that it is entirely up to us to not want to sin, while it is entirely a gift of God to bless us with the grace needed to overcome sin. “Without me – says the Lord – you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), but He also says, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48), and later, to St. Paul, “my grace is enough for you” (2Cor 12:9).

In the form of the Sacrament, “I absolve you, assuming the penitent did not put any obstacles, such as willfully lying or withholding, or later failing to do any satisfaction, but rather that the penitent had a sincere sorrow for their sins and a firm resolution to avoid them in the future, all their sins from the very moment of Baptism (or from their last Absolution) till that moment are forgiven and remitted through the power of the Keys – even sins that you may have forgotten to mention!

The pains of Purgatory in a painting by Fontebasso

Yet, such forgiveness and remission of sin does not imply the forgiveness of the temporal punishment due to every sin.

Sin carries both a stain and a punishment. When the stain is cleansed from the soul by sacramental absolution, the temporal punishment is not always remitted, except through the remedy of satisfaction, by avoiding near occasions of sin, resolving to sin no more, and doing works of penance. Such satisfaction also atones to our Mother the Church, whom we often forget is injured by our sins, and it also deters others from sin by way of example.

Last but not least, temporal punishment is the reason for Purgatory…the ecclesia dolens… Someone reported that St. Padre Pio once said: “let us do our Purgatory here on earthby accepting everything from God’s hand“. (ref. Job 1:21…again…)

Interiorly, satisfaction heals the wound caused by sin. St. Bernard taught that “the stain is removed from the soul by God’s mercy, while the wound is healed through the remedy of penance…and even then, some scar remains”.

In this we see the great love and care of Holy Mother Church, Bride of Christ and as such minister of Redemption, custodian of that great treasury of expiatory works of Christ and the Saints! By granting an Indulgence, our Mother the Church is coming to our help in ridding us of the temporal punishment we have accumulated by our sins – or, when we apply the indulgence to a faithful departed, to help us help one another!

St. John Paul II summarized this wonderfully in 1999:

“[indulgence] is a sensitive subject, which has suffered historical misunderstandings […]

The starting-point for understanding indulgences is the abundance of God’s mercy revealed in the Cross of Christ. The crucified Jesus is the great “indulgence” that the Father has offered humanity through the forgiveness of sins […]   in the logic of the covenant, which is the heart of the whole economy of salvation, this gift does not reach us without our acceptance and response. […] 

[I]t is not difficult to understand how reconciliation with God, although based on a free and abundant offer of mercy, at the same time implies an arduous process which involves the individual’s personal effort and the Church’s sacramental work.

For the forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism, this process is centered on the sacrament of Penance, but it continues after the sacramental celebration. The person must be gradually “healed” of the negative effects which sin has caused in him (what the theological tradition calls the “punishments” […] Precisely for the sake of complete healing, the sinner is called to undertake a journey of conversion towards the fullness of love.

The temporal punishment itself serves as “medicine” to the extent that the person allows it to challenge him to undertake his own profound conversion. This is the meaning of the “satisfaction” required in the sacrament of Penance.

The meaning of indulgences must be seen against this background of man’s total renewal by the grace of Christ the Redeemer through the Church’s ministry.

The Church has a treasury, then, which is “dispensed” as it were through indulgences. This “distribution” should not be understood as a sort of automatic transfer, as if we were speaking of “things”. It is instead the expression of the Church’s full confidence of being heard by the Father when – in view of Christ’s merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints – she asks Him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace. In the unfathomable mystery of divine wisdom, this gift of intercession can also benefit the faithful departed […]

We can see, then, how indulgences, far from being a sort of “discount” on the duty of conversion, are instead an aid to its prompt, generous and radical fulfilment. This is required to such an extent that the spiritual condition for receiving a plenary indulgence is the exclusion “of all attachment to sin, even venial sin” […]

Therefore, it would be a mistake to think that we can receive this gift by simply performing certain outward acts. On the contrary, they are required as the expression and support of our progress in conversion. They particularly show our faith in God’s mercy and in the marvellous reality of communion, which Christ has achieved by indissolubly uniting the Church to himself as his Body and Bride.”

St. John Paul II, PP – General Audience – 29 Sep 1999
“Virgo Ecclesia Facta” – the Church is our loving Mother

Our Catholic Faith


Our Catholic Faith is a gift of the Father given to us by the Son through the Holy Spirit. We often forget that it is thanks to the blood of the martyrs that the Faith was strengthened.

The Faith is built on the blood of the martyrs. For centuries, Catholic men, women, and children have chosen death rather than deny Christ. Yet, how easy it is for us, in our politically correct world and our inclusive society, to hide our Faith or misrepresent it.

It is not that we are opposed to inclusion and to social graces. But there is a right way and a wrong way to welcome those who believe differently from us.

Political correctness and inclusion must never deny or hide the truth. Christ demands that we treat everyone with respect. Even in the case of a non-believer there exists a hunger for the transcendent. The transcendent points to God, even when people profess to deny the existence of God. That little light that seeks to understand a God who is denied, that little light is actual grace that God gives to humanity so that we may seek and find Him.

Justice demands that we speak up for Christ and the Catholic faith when societal norms and politeness try to impose upon us that which is contrary to God’s plan for humanity. It is not within our ability to question God, much less to re-design truth so as to include everyone. Inclusion and political correctness must be built on justice and fidelity to God.

The Seraphic Father binds us to the True Faith

New Year’s Thought from the Franciscans of Life


The Franciscans of Life wish every one of our family, friends, and benefactors a Happy and Blessed New Year.

We want to remind everyone that January first is not only New Year’s Day in the western calendar, but it’s also a special solemnity in honor of Our Lady.  It’s the Solemnity of the Mother of God.  It is the only feast day that we celebrate honoring Our Lady’s “divine maternity”.

In a world where motherhood and childbearing are often viewed as a burden or an inconvenience, at the very least, Catholics remember that motherhood is a gift from Heaven.  God becomes man and is born into a human family.  Every one of us has existed in the mind of God the Father for all eternity.  This “divine thought” becomes a human being at conception.  God has seen us in His image and likeness since the beginning.

Let us pray that this year, humanity will awaken from the nightmare of abortion and euthanasia.  Pray that nations come to respect life, from the womb to the tomb, as a mystery that comes from God and is destined to return to God at a time according to His plan.

Topic shift:  the Franciscans of Life have completed our year-end review.  We planned our days, schedules and activities for this new year, to allow us more time for silence, solitude, prayer, penance, a fraternal life.  Like every human family, a community of consecrated persons, religious or lay, is called to live as a family that reflects the community of the Holy Trinity.

It is very easy to get caught up in the “to do’s” of everyday life, to the point where doing becomes man’s only source of satisfaction and enrichment.  Unfortunately, becoming or being is forgotten and replaced by doing.  We hope that others will join us in the quest to become people of deeper prayer, more sacrificial penance, and joyful members of families, parishes, and communities.

       

Finally, it is with great joy that we announce that Brother Bernardo will profess perpetual vows on January 7, 2019.  I [Br. Jay] will have the honor of receiving those vows in the name of our community.

Brother will vow to live in obedience to God, the Church, and the constitutions and superior of our community.  He will surrender the right to own property and will vow to live the rest of his life without property, money, or special distinctions.  He will vow to live celibate chastity until death, so that he may devote every moment of his life to Christ, the Immaculate, and the people of God.

Franciscans of Life also make a fourth vow: to proclaim the Gospel of Life to the voiceless.  We follow the example of St. Francis and his command to the first Franciscans, to live in peace with all men, to have a special place in our hearts and their mission for the poor, elderly, sick and abandoned.  The Gospel of Life demands in a special way that we treat all travelers and immigrants with respect and charity.  Please pray for Brother Bernardo and for the Franciscans of Life, that we may be faithful to the end.

    —>   

May the new year bring many blessings into your lives.  Let us pray that it will be a year where man moves closer to peace, deals more justly with other people, and detaches from excessive material goods to the detriment of his soul.

 

[click to see full-scale picture]

Proclaiming Good News to the Poor


In 2009, a solitary Franciscan set out to serve families and individuals who struggle with abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide, infanticide and capital punishment.  Most important we work for the salvation of soul and body.

Today, there are six brothers.  Three are Regular Brothers and three are Extern Brothers.

The Regular Brothers make vows of chastity, poverty and obedience and a fourth vow, to proclaim the Gospel of Life.  The Extern brothers make a solemn promise, which they renew annually, to support pro life ministry, to live a life of prayer and penance, and to observe the Rule of Penitents, given to us by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1221.

The proclamation of the Gospel of Life demands that we appreciate every man, woman and child as a gift from God, in whom God resides.

The brothers run Project Joseph, for the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry.  We are currently in four centers where we reach out to men who are considering abortion, who are too poor and are anxious about another mouth to feed, and men who are not aware that Christ loves every human being and will not leave us to struggle alone, though at times it may seem that way.

Our brothers teach the faith to children in religious education, where we present the Bible in the manner that St. Francis of Assisi taught it to his early brothers and friends.  One of our brothers is the community questor.  He teaches at a school for students whose needs cannot be met in the local public-school system.

His small stipend goes to paying rent, utilities, groceries, gasoline, car maintenance, medical bills and unexpected expenses.  The brothers try to be truly poor, not just appear to be poor.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, we leave behind family, jobs, careers, bank accounts, inheritance, friends and everything that draws us into the secular world, instead of drawing us closer to Christ.

To date, the Regular Brothers live in a room that is on loan to them by a family member.  The situation is crowded.  In return the brothers take care of housekeeping, cooking, laundry, and other household chores.  This allows them to pay a very small monthly rent of $325.00.

We pray that God will send us house where we can welcome new candidates who wish to serve the family, the terminally ill and the immigrant poor.  It would allow us to expand our ministry as the number of brothers grows.

We invite any Catholic man between 18 and 50 years of age to talk to us.  Maybe God is calling you to be one with the poor, as was Saint Francis and to proclaim the Gospel of Life through your works, teaching, community living and life of prayer.

“Life calls out to life.”

Contact us

franciscansoflife@gmail.com

 

Published in: on October 18, 2018 at 2:41 PM  Comments (1)  

40 Days for Life, Transitus – Join Us!


We are entering that time of the year which we jovially refer to as “Franciscan season”. There are just so many unique events taking place, such as the feast of St. Francis (a Solemnity for the Franciscan family) preceded by the Transitus (crossing over), the commemoration of the Poverello’s entrance into Heaven; the beginning of our “little lent” on the feast of St. Michael (now feast of the Holy Archangels); the commemoration of the Franciscan saints and deceased…AND October is also Respect Life Month, which takes a very special meaning for the Franciscans of Life.

We are kicking off by supporting 40 Days for Life, in particular the Hollywood, FL chapter. We are doing so not only by making a special effort to fill in hours to support the ongoing prayer vigil, but also by promoting the event through a simple video tutorial on how to find a prayer vigil anywhere in the U.S. and how to register for volunteering. Check it out!

On the evening of Wednesday, October 3rd we celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis at the Chapel of St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church in Pembroke Pines, FL, thanks to the kindness and support of the parish pastor and staff. A special thanks goes to the Charismatic Renewal prayer group that also meets on Wednesday evenings, who kindly welcomed our brother Bernardo last year.

The Transitus is a simple yet solemn ritual in which the brothers, following the historical recount by Brother Thomas of Celano, re-enact the last moments in the earthly life of the Seraphic Father and his “crossing over” to Heaven. On this occasion, the Testament of St. Francis is also read. You are welcome to join us! For more details and if you wish to confirm your attendance, you can visit

https://www.facebook.com/events/288624165071812/ 

Transitus (2014)

What else? Much more. During Respect Life Month we will participate in the Life Chain on October 7 and many other events to support and promote the work of Respect Life Ministry Archdiocese of Miami, in particular Project Joseph. Why not take a moment to find out more about this unique program to protect the unborn by serving fathers in crisis pregnancies? Visit www.projectjoseph.org and make sure to watch the short video at the end of that page! We include it here for your convenience:

Feel free to email us if you want to find out more about these events, or about our little Catholic brotherhood! We are an emerging community, joyful to obediently serve the needs of the local Church, pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, and live a simple life of penance and prayer.

There are several ways to stay in contact besides directly emailing us. For example, you can subscribe to our community blog using the little box on the side of this page (see below) and you will receive new articles in your email.

How to subscribe to our blog

You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/franciscansoflife , we try to post our events and share pro-life news, and we even have a group for those who want to keep in touch and inquire on our way of life.

We are also on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/franciscansoflife We have two interesting series being edited already, one on the Gospel of Life and one on our Constitutions – and many interesting videos already published. Make sure to “subscribe” and click on the “bell” to receive a notice when the new videos come up!

And if you are wondering how to support us, check out the How to Help page of our website, and feel free to read and share our Vocations material.

Thank you for walking with us as we build something beautiful for the Immaculate.

Published in: on September 24, 2018 at 10:09 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Gospel of Life is About God’s Work Among Us


 

Jesus and young manSuperior’s Reflection on  A Brother’s Witness   

We assigned Brother to Broward, because the student population is composed of individuals whose lives have been very challenging.  They need more than academic education.  They need to see someone live the Good News (Gospel) that Life is worth every effort that we make each morning when we get out of bed.

Brother Bernardo is a student brother who holds advanced degrees in science and engineering.  He is a member of the Order of Engineers, a brotherhood of engineers committed to serving the community, instead of working for six-figure salaries, which monitors best practices and ethical practices in every field of engineering.  Brother is also working on two Licentiates, one Spiritual Theology and another Adult Education.  He is a few credits short of finishing the Education Licentiate.  For those who may not know, Brother is only 28 years old, born in Havana, to a Cuban mother and an Italian father.  He left Cuba when he was a preschooler and grew up in the Province of Rome with his parents and other Italian relatives.  Brother Bernardo speaks five languages fluently.  He published two scholarly works before his 18th birthday.

In 2006, at the age of 17, he published a book in Spanish, “Desde Numeros a La Computadora” (From numbers to computers) a research project in cognitive relationship between mathematical intelligence and technology.  In 2007, at the age of 18, he published an anthropology book in Italian, “Arkeopolis Numero 0.”  In 2008, at the age of 19, he published his third book, “A Student’s Notes About Programming, in English.”  He shares his notes in programming, with a focus on security and safety.  Finally, in 2016, he wrote the draft for a new book by Brother Jay, “A Franciscan Approach to the Gospel of Life”, a collection of 1,000+ articles and essays written and published by Brother Jay in the United States, Europe, and South America.  It is written in Spanish and English.  Brothers Jay and Bernardo hope to complete this important work by the end of 2018.  If time allows, a Creole translation may follow.

Franciscans of Life are neither deacons nor priests.  We are an emerging community of simple men who vow to live according to the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi.  Our highest goal is to follow the guidance that the Immaculate gave the waiters at the Wedding at Cana, to do whatever he tells us.  Obedience is a way of life for us.  We vow poverty and own nothing as individuals.  As a community, we own only what is needed for healthy living and ministry.  The Regular brothers vow to live in celibate chastity until death and to Proclaim the Gospel of Life by means of words, education and service to those whom the world often forgets.  We live our entire lives in small community houses among the working class, as did the early Franciscans who lived and worked in the fields alongside the peasants of the time.

We do not run high schools or colleges.  Nor do we run hospitals.  Our involvement in parish ministry is limited to religious education of children and adults.   We do not accept administrative posts in parishes and other ecclesiastical organizations.  Our vocation is to be one of the least always trying to do the most that we can for the salvation of souls.

Currently, there are seven brothers.  Two are working in Project Joseph with Respect Life Miami, a formation program for expectant fathers.  The superior of the community is also the Archdiocesan Director of Project Joseph.  Another of our brothers is a Registered Nurse who has served in hospice, caring for patients and providing spiritual support to their relatives and friends.  He has also spent more than five-years providing support services to a young man with severe neurological disabilities, including spending the night with him in the hospital so that his mother could get a few hours of sleep.

My conclusion?  We don’t need to be a big religious order or run large parishes, schools, colleges or hospitals to do preach the Gospel of Life that became incarnate in the womb of the Immaculate.

 

 

 

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.

 

THE WITNESS OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE


Statue at St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, sculpted by Sr. Margaret Beaudette, S.C. – (c) Jim Davis, Florida Catholic

Those who have heard the name Maximilian Kolbe, immediately remember the friar who gave his life in Auschwitz.  He took the place of an innocent man whom the Nazis wanted to execute as an “example” to others of what happens when prisoners escape.  Nazi logic is as dull as the edge of a butter knife.

They believed that a prisoner had escaped, because they could not find him.  They decided to make an example to discourage escaping; but their victim was an innocent man who had not attempted escape.

Maximilian contemplated this insane scenario.  Insane, because there was no logic to the proposed execution. This irrational sentencing to death of an innocent man was unlikely to discourage any further attempts to escape.  On the contrary, it had the potential to encourage more attempts.  Those present understood that their chances of survival were probably greater if they tried to escape.  If they did get caught and killed by the guards, their death had some meaning.  To be executed to deter further attempts to escape, when one had never attempted to do so, was irrational.

The man whom they chose to execute was a husband and a father.  He cried, not for his life, but for that of his family.  An intact family would soon be deprived of its father, because a group of men with no moral conscience, no sensitivity and no respect for human life were about “console” their wounded pride, because they failed to capture the escaped convict.  The execution of this innocent man was really a ruthless act to appease their disturbed pride.

“Jesus stepped forward… ‘I am he…let these go’ ” (Jn 18)

God had graced Maximilian with intelligence, a conscience, courage, love for all men, a spirit of detachment from all things of this world, and an unwavering trust in the Immaculate.  The Holy Spirit energized the graces that the Father had poured into Maximilian through the cross of His son.  There was no need for time to consider the consequences. Maximilian stepped forward and volunteered to replace the innocent husband and father.

This is God’s moment of glory in the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, for all to see.  In an instant that required no time and no consideration of the facts, the power of grace, as strong as the wind of a hurricane and burning like flairs from the sun jolted Maximilian.  The rest was up to his will.  He could choose to ignore grace or surrender to the supremacy and wonder of God, knowing that his earthly life was about to come to a cruel and unjustifiable end; but a new life was about to begin.

Maximilian freely chose martyrdom.  But martyrdom is not the choice of a godless man.  God offers martyrdom to those who have lived their lives in His grace and are spiritually solid enough to tolerate martyrdom. They love as they have been loved.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1) – Foto (c) ANSA

We honor Maximilian Kolbe and we look to him as a model, not as a hero who gave his life for another man.  Such heroism happens more often than we think.  But Maximilian’s choice was much more than an impulse to protect a life.  Maximilian’s choice was free cooperation with the Love who had loved him first.

Unless we are aware of the presence of the Beloved in our lives and return love for love, we will never have the courage to freely lay down our lives for pure love.

Such courage comes from grace that is not merited by man, but freely offered by God to some souls.  The soul becomes aware of the rule of grace. At the right moment in time, that soul freely and lovingly places itself under the shield of grace and accepts martyrdom.  For this, man must live in the presence of Christ.  Always linked to him through the Immaculate.

“The conflict with hell cannot be engaged by men…the Immaculate alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan. Assumed into Heaven, the Mother of God now requires our cooperation. She seeks souls who will consecrate themselves entirely to her, wh o will become in her hands effective instruments for the defeat of Satan and the spreading of the Kingdom of God upon Earth.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe. [drawing (c) Franciscans of Life]

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.