“remember me, your poor mother…”


Today many Franciscan communities celebrate as a Solemnity the feast of our Holy Mother St. Clare of Assisi, Virgin.

(holy card courtesy of the Poor Clares of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery)

Born of a noble family, she chose to follow the example of her townsman St. Francis, wishing to follow the Lord with her whole heart in an austere life of poverty, but rich in the practice of charity and loving care.

She professed vows in the hands of Saint Francis on March 18, 1212, thus founding the “second order”, whose nuns would be first known as Poor Ladies. (In her honor, in 1263 Pope Urban IV officially changed the name of the Poor Ladies to the Order of Saint Clare.)

St. Damiano – where Christ had deigned to speak to St. Francis – was eventually the chosen residence of their first community. St. Clare was joined by her sister Agnes and even by her own mother!

Much could be said about their spiritual relationship to the other Franciscan orders, and to how she encouraged and supported St. Francis (particularly after he received the Stigmata, whose secret he kept from all but a few…)….of her miracles…of how she protected Assisi…but perhaps she would like us to remember in particular her Franciscan devotion to holy poverty, whom Franciscan scholars point out as the foremost characteristic of her spirituality.

When Cardinal Ugolino (Pope Gregory IX) imposed the Benedictine rule on them, for years she strived to have a rule in the spirit of Saint Francis for her sisters, and her rule was approved by Pope Innocent IV two days before her death, the privilege of “highest poverty” being the final gift in this earthly life by her Divine Spouse…she died at the age of 60 on August 11, 1253.

“The Apostolic See usually acquiesces in the pious and honest wishes of those who ask that a kindly favor be given them. Therefore, beloved Daughters in the Lord, inclined to your prayers, we confirm with the same apostolic authority the Rule and way of life of your Order…”

“Solet Annuere (1245)”, Pope Innocent IV

At her funeral, Pope Innocent IV insisted the brothers perform the Office for the Virgin Saints rather than the Office for the Dead…indeed, she was formally canonized just two years later by Pope Alexander IV, who would call her “Clara claris praeclara meritis“, “a clear mirror of example”, and would say of her: “O clarity of blessed Clare to be admired!

O blessed poverty who bestows eternal riches on those who love and embrace her!” – she would write. And to her Divine Spouse she would say: “Contempt of the world has pleased You more than honors, poverty more than earthly riches“.

She wrote several letters to St. Agnes of Prague, who was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. St. Agnes of Bohemia (as she is also known) refused marriage proposals from the kings of Germany and England, and from the Holy Roman Emperor himself – all for the sake of following in the footsteps of Christ! Her family financed the construction of a monastery in Prague, where she entered with seven other ladies in 1236. Pressured to be elected Abbess, she insisted she be called “senior sister” and often cooked for the sisters. She died on March 2nd 1282, was beatified in 1874, and was canonized in 1989. To one such letter belongs the title of this article, specifically found in today’s Office of Readings:

“Happy indeed is she who is given the grace of sharing this holy way of life, of clinging to it with every fiber of her being…behold the poverty of him who was laid in the manger…What wondrous humility! What astonishing poverty! Note the countless toils and sufferings he endured to redeem the human race…As you meditate in this way remember me, your poor mother, and know that I have inscribed your happy memory deeply on the tablets of my heart”

from a Letter of St. Clare to St. Agnes of Prague

I wish to close this post with some of today’s antiphons. They are, in themselves, a powerful summary of our Holy Mother’s life.

Clare was concerned with the things of the Lord to be holy in body and spirit……she wore and humbled her body with fasts…she accounted all else rubbish therefore she found better and more permanent possessions. She spurned the world’s perishable glory to gain Christ.

The hand of the Lord strengthened her, she will therefore be blessed forever. She cast all her care upon God. She hoped in him and he came to her assistance.

Come, let us adore Christ the king whom Clare loved with all her heart.

Proper offices of franciscan saints and blessed in the liturgy of the hours

“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

New World, Old Problems


32,941 Global Conflict Photos and Premium High Res Pictures - Getty Images

Few people will deny that we are living during a critical time in human history. Americans are facing a presidential election. Europeans are approaching the final act separating the United Kingdom from the European Union, with many important questions that need a response very soon. Military conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe erupt when one least expects it. Moreover, the world community is under attack by COVID-19

The question “How can Christians face these situations always keeping Christ at the center?”

St. Patrick's Cathedral - The Skyscraper Center
The secular world overwhelms and overtakes the faithful…finding God becomes harder…

There is no easy answer to this question. The most important reason why there is not a Christ-like response to these situations is that Christ has been pushed to the sidelines, even by people who profess to be Christian.

Everyone wants a solution to these problems, but no one wants help. We want to redeem the world ourselves on our terms, a task that is humanly impossible. We lack the knowledge, unity, resources, and a shared worldview.

The challenge to leadership is not new to humanity. From the time that man has walked the earth, he has challenged leadership. As time moved forward the challenges often took sinister executions. Just look at the Romans. They poisoned their parents, siblings, and children for the sole purpose of power.

Fast forward to the Middle Ages. The rise of the mercantile class posed a threat to the control and power exercised by the nobility. And we move forward to the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the power struggles in Asia.

15 most famous and terrifying Russian military paintings - Russia Beyond

Conflict for power is not new to humanity. It only seems catastrophic because we are in the middle of the conflict. In 500 years, there will probably be other forms of seeking power, rather than elections.

In the past, few societies allowed themselves to be guided by the Gospel when searching for leaders and rulers. Today, it seems that Christ has become an abstract about which we think about in church, but we leave him and his teachings behind when we walk out the door.

No country is going to thrive unless it has a government that is guided by absolute moral norms, attention to the voice of Christ, and the desire of citizens to look at the needs of the whole, not just a few.

Elections have been simplified. Today they are about embracing one ideology over another, be it in Europe, Asia, South America, or the United States.

Democracy Depends on Digital Security - Nextgov

We cast our votes for the person who speaks the best, who represents my interests, at the expense of others, and who in the end has no direct influence in my life with my family, community, and place of employment.

The influence of government is always remote, especially in nations that are too populous to be governed by one person. Even a dictatorship cannot exist without a support system. What citizens live with or without are those legislations that trickle down to them through a complex system of government.

Jesus Makes Perfect (part 12) - Kenneth Cope
Seek the things above…”

If Christians want to see real and lasting social reform, it is incumbent upon every individual to search his or her conscience and individual understanding of the proposals on the table.

As true Christians, we must always choose the greater good. Very often that is going to benefit more people besides me or instead of me.

The Gospel of Matthew says it very clearly, “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren, you did it for me.” If we choose the greater good, the least of our brethren will benefit, in this life or in the next.

To know the Greater Good, we must know Jesus Christ and his values, his worldview, his commandments, and his moral example. Left to our own devices, we will be unable to identify the Greater Good.

Not all human beings think alike, and each sees that which benefits them as the greater good. We need a single point of reference. That point is Jesus Christ, not the hundreds of politicians peddling their wares.

When we vote, we must focus on that which is the greater good for the greatest amount of people, born or in the womb.

Advent: time to Remember and Prepare


Most of us enter the Advent season looking forward to the Christmas holiday.  We’re planning meals, making guest list, shopping for gifts or planning to travel.  As we spiral into Christmas, we sail through Advent without taking note of its true meaning.

From our Jewish roots in the Old Testament God invites us to remember.  He supplies the flood and Noah’s ark with the rainbow as a remembrance of His promise never to destroy the earth by water again.

When men tried to reach for Heaven building a tower, God brought it down with His mighty power.  The failure of the tower of Babel reminds us that man cannot reach God by human means, only by the means that God has given us through the Patriarchs:  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Moses.   He speaks to us through the prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezequiel.  Each contact with man was a reminder of who is God and who is man.  Then there were the kings, beginning with Saul, David, Solomon, and others.  Through each new era, using different human beings, God continues to remind us that only He is God and we are His people.

Faithful Jews carefully remembered and protected the memory of these events.  When Gabriel appears to Zechariah, he struck him mute to remind him of God’s power and free will.  Whereas when he appears to the Virgin Mary to announce the conception and birth of the Son of God, he does not need to remind Mary of all the signs that God had given in the past to remind us that He was God.  Mary knew exactly what Gabriel was talking about.  She was a faithful daughter of Israel who remembered the Lord’s great signs in the past and the prophecies that promised a redeemer.  She does not ask Gabriel for proof. She raises only one question, “How is this to be, since I do not know man?”

The encounter between Mary and Gabriel is the beginning of the first Advent in history.  God goes beyond communicating His expectations and plans for humanity.  Through Mary, he throws Israel into the future, into things to come that the prophets and patriarchs had foretold.    God doesn’t deny humanity knowledge of His power and providence: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

Instead of giving Mary more laws and more guidance, He announces His break into human history.  The Incarnation is a historical event that reminds us of God’s great love for humanity, especially Israel.  The Incarnation is also the singular event that sets in motion anticipation for Him who is to come.  To believe that God can and is going to break into human history, we must remember the past.The memories of what God communicated in the past explain the reason for the birth of Christ. This was a period of reflection and anticipation of what was coming.  It was the words spoken through God’s chosen instruments and events in the past that clarified who was to come and why He was coming.  From the moment of the Incarnation to the day of Christ’s birth, those who remembered God’s operation the past understood that God’s activity did not end with the last prophet.  On the contrary, God’s activity was about to be personalized.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity was coming to redeem us from sin and save us from our indifference, lust for power and pleasure, our search for comfort in worldly things while forgetting that which comes beyond our life on earth. He planned to enter the world to redeem humanity from its sin, to save us from ourselves. God’s plan for redemption was not going to be influenced by the sins, beliefs, and practices of Israel.  Man could do nothing to prevent the Creator of human history to enter human history.

Advent did not end with the birth of Christ.  Nor did it end with His Passion and Resurrection.  Jesus left us with much to remember, the Beatitudes, the corporal works of mercy, moral teachings, and most importantly, Himself present in the consecrated host that we receive and that we adore.

He promised to return.  But this time, not to redeem humanity.  He has already done this.  He promised to return to judge the living and the dead.  Those who remembered everything that God has revealed through human history and lived accordingly, will be saved.  Those who choose not to remember cannot possibly prepare for the advent of Christ as judge.

Most of us are comfortable with ourselves, because we never examine our thoughts, actions, and beliefs using the everything that God has revealed and promised.  We fail to live according to God’s plan.  Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, we dream and work on our achievements, not knowing if they’ll ever become reality.  The only reality of which we can be sure is that Christ does not lie.  He promised to come as a judge and king, he will not digress from this plan.

We can continue to ignore what God has told us to remember, ignore what Christ did, ignore what the Apostles handed down to us, and live our lives according to our plan not knowing if our plan conforms to God’s plan.

Or, we can choose to examine our plans, thoughts, desires, and actions against the background of Revelation, and to turn away from everything that distances us from God, everything that condemns us to eternal damnation.

Advent is a time to reflect on what God has taught and done for us to prepare for His second coming.

WHAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED BY THE PRO-LIFE MOVEMENT?


This week, hundreds of thousands will be marching in many cities around the country in defense of life.  There are some important points to keep in mind these days.

First:  Abortion will not go away because people protest one day a year.  There must be a concerted effort on the part of all pro-life people to educate their neighbors and families on the issue.

Second:  Images of baby body parts are impressive, but they don’t tell the full story.  We must begin to tell the full story.  EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS THE RIGHT TO BE BORN GUARANTEED BY NATURAL LAW.  The fact that the Constitution does not cover the child in the womb, does not mean this child has no right to be born.  What it means is that the amendments and laws passed have been short-sighted and must offered protection to the pre-born person.

Third:  Christ said that certain demons could only be driven out by prayer and fasting.  We invite those who are interested to follow the Franciscans of Life in the matter.  We fast every Wednesday and Friday.   We abstain from meat on Fridays.  This is part of the sacrifice that we offer for the protection of life and the salvation of souls.

Fourth:  Abortion is not a religious issue.  It is an issue of justice.  Every woman has the right to medical care; but no one has the right to medical care at the expense of another person’s life.  The child in the womb has as much right to be in this world as do the parents.  Our struggle is not a struggle against abortion, but a struggle for justice for everyone from conception to natural death.

Fifth and final point:  There must be a national effort or campaign that promotes the right of men and women to be parents.  It seems that the argument against abortion is about a woman’s right to “medical care”, completely ignoring or even looking down on men and women who strongly believe that they have the right to conceive and parent a child.

Published in: on January 12, 2019 at 2:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

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.

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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]

FRANCISCANS PREPARE FOR CHRISTMAS


The Franciscans of Life prepare for the Christmas celebration in several ways.  We hope that those who read this blog will be inspired to find their own way to prepare to celebrate Christmas.  Feel free to borrow from us.

The first step in preparation for Christmas is Reconciliation.

We acknowledge that we have sinned, that we have distanced ourselves from God by our thoughts, words and actions.  We approach the confessional with the same simplicity and humility as the peasant shepherds approached the newborn Messiah in the stable at Bethlehem.  We confess our sins, beg for forgiveness and kneel in adoration of a God who never denies us forgiveness, not matter what we may have done or failed to do, as long as we are truly sorry.

Second, we create an environment with periods of silence.

St. Joseph is our model.  As we read the account of Jesus’ birth, we notice that Joseph does not speak.  He contemplates the newborn Messiah and his Virgin Mother.  Like St. Joseph, we need periods of silence.  Periods of silence does not mean quietly working on the internet or some other project.  A period of silence involves total disconnection from the world around us.  These need not be long periods.  Several short periods during the day can be beneficial for those of us who are restless and can’t be quiet or still for an extended period.  Whether one chooses a long period of silence once a day or several shorter periods during the day, the important thing is to imitate St. Joseph.  We must reflect on the miracle of the incarnation and the nativity, reflect on how this event invites us to change the way we live, think and behave.  The Christ child invites us to draw from our innate desire to encounter God.

Third, order is necessary.

It is very difficult to experience internal silence, if we live in a disorganized environment.  Disorder can take the form of clutter and lack of order in our physical environment.  It can also be failure on our part to discipline ourselves: stop using profanity, find the good in every situation, give up skepticism and negativity, accept that we can’t change the world, the Church, our community or ourselves with the snap of a finger.  We must work at change.  Begin by harnessing anger.  Like the Wise men from the East who persevered following the star that led them to the Christ Child, we must continue to follow the star that leads to self-control and self-discipline, as that of the Wise men.  Order and internal silence are graces that we must actively pursue through concrete actions and insistently pray for the grace to move forward, even if it’s one step at a time.

Fourth, this is a time to reconnect with our families, communities, parish and colleagues.  We accept that nothing human is perfect, but we insist on finding the good in every situation.

Joseph was pressed for a solution when he could not find a place for Mary to deliver her firstborn and only son, Jesus Christ.  Yet he did the best he could.  He found a clean cave to serve as the delivery room for the

Birth of Jesus

Son of God and Son of Mary.  He did not express disappointment or frustration because the accommodations were less than

those at an inn or at the home of a relative.  On the contrary, he took what God had provided and made it the first tabernacle in history.  The cave housed the Son of God, body, blood, soul and divinity.  He and Mary welcomed the peasants and shepherds to their “tabernacle” under the rocks.

The birth of Christ proclaimed a new age, an age of redemption for all who were willing to believe and to join the community of believers in fraternity, without class, racial or gender distinctions.  The Holy Family in Bethlehem opened its doors to anyone who wanted to join them.  We too must be willing to open the doors that allow those who would normally be shunned or left out to join our family and with us, contemplate and serve the new born Son of God.  So, we reach out to family, friends, and others in a spirit of humility, acknowledging that it is not us whom others come to find, but the newborn King of Kings.

Prepare for Christmas:

  1. go to confession and do penance,
  2. seek out daily periods of silence,
  3. return order to your life, starting with your surroundings and continuing with your behaviors; and
  4. connect with family, friends, community members, fellow parishioners.  Reach out and welcome others into your spirit of Christmas.

A MERRY AND BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO OUR FRIENDS AND BENEFACTORS

Published in: on December 21, 2018 at 2:30 PM  Comments (1)  

Human Trafficking in Our Community


A Respect Life Event

You Are Invited!

For reservations, please see the number in the flyer. There is also a Facebook page.

Please feel free to share this event ( JPEG, PDF, link 1, link 2, link 3).

[Click to Zoom]

Admission ticket will benefit the charitable works of the North Broward (Margate) Pregnancy Help Center, where pregnant mothers and fathers receive FREE support, education, and assistance.

Published in: on May 4, 2018 at 4:38 PM  Leave a Comment  

A FRANCISCAN CONTEMPLATES ON THE CHRISTMAS CRECHE


[Versión en Español]

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Dear Family:

As the Christmas season quickly approaches, I felt that I should publish an uplifting blog post on the meaning of Christmas and so forth.  The more that I thought about it, the fewer words came to mind.  I guess that much of what I can say about Christmas has been said much more eloquently. It’s difficult to come up with something different.   So, I thought I’d share a theology through history; which I learned from St. Augustine and Joseph Ratzinger.

For those who don’t No automatic alt text available.know, the first recorded Christmas crèche was created by St. Francis of Assisi, after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Some historians place this around the year 1223.  For 794 years the Franciscan family has represented the nativity scene, as St. Francis understood it.

This is important.  His point of reference was what he saw in the Holy Land, what he read in Sacred Scripture and the description that was handed down by oral tradition.  This does not mean that that st josephFrancis’ representation of the Nativity is wrong.  On the contrary, it is the most reliable representation of the birth of Christ, because St. Francis pulled from several sources, including what he saw with his own eyes in the Holy Land.  The more input one has into an event, the more points of consistency and the more differences between the narratives.  Let’s be careful!  We’re talking about differences in the narratives, not contradictions.  None of the narratives of Christ’s birth contradicts the other.  Each contains a piece of information that is not mentioned in another source:  biblical, oral tradition or art.  They fit together like pieces of a puzzle. This makes St. Francis’ representation of the Nativity one of the most reliable in history.  He combined all of the sources that he knew, filling in the blanks in one source, with information from another source.  One may ask himself, “Why is Brother telling us this?”

WP_20151220_001Every year, churches and homes display the nativity using different artistic mediums.  Unfortunately, some displays, even though they are beautiful, include elements that are not historical, such as Santa venerating the newborn Messiah or little towns, complete with trains.  Even more common, is the addition of snow or the figures of the Magi venerating the newborn King.

When St. Francis recreated the first crèche he did it for some very solid spiritual and devotional reasons.

Joseph fatherhoodFirst:  It was virtually impossible for Christians to enter the Holy Land on pilgrimage to the important sites in our salvation history.  Many Christians had forgotten parts of the Christmas story and some people had added or deleted from the original story.

Second:  Many Europeans were illiterate.  The few that could read often lacked enough proficiency in Greek and Latin need to understand Sacred Scripture.  These contributed to the birth of myths about the Nativity.  When one replaces fact with imagination, one runs the risk of misunderstanding what God is revealing about himself.  Francis’ live representation of the Nativity as he learned from personal experience and the various sources helped him, his brothers and the world to see the wonder of Christmas, in all its purity, simplicity, humility and clarity.

Third:  St. Francis lets us see that the Son of God came into the world as a real human being from a human womb and “took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men”, except sin, [those men being the peasant shepherd who spent nights caring for the master’s sheep in caveCatholic, Christ, Christian, Churchs and huts unfit for a king].  From the moment that the Second Person of the Trinity broke into human history, he entered the world as a peasant who shared the lot of shepherds.  It’s important to remember that the shepherds worked for someone else. They did not own the sheep.  Jesus clearly reminded us that he had come to do the will of the One who sent him, not his will and that he is the Good Shepherd, meaning that he doesn’t own the sheep.  The Father owns the sheep.  We belong to the Father.

Fourth: The Son of the Father takes on a second nature, human nature.  He becomes the Son of Man, without forfeiting his divine nature as the second person of the most Holy Trinity.  When we look at the infant in the crèche, like St. Francis, we must let our eyes, hearts and minds focus on what we see, not on the beauty of the figures and the display, but on the more sublime beauty. From the fall of Adam, God planned to send one who would crush the head of Evil.  Because man exists in time and space, the first covenant was to be fulfilled in time and space.

When St. Francis created the first live Nativity scene outside of Palestine his intention was as simple as it was deep.  We must look at the nativity scene and go past the beautiful image of the Baby Jesus.  Let us contemplate on the mystery of our redemption.  God becomes a human peasant to show us the true meaning of humility before God Image may contain: 1 personand man.  Unless we are born again as servants, instead of masters, we shall not find Christ among us.

Jesus was conceived in an obscure village in Judea, was born away from his parental home, in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth, or Jerusalem where the Hebrew kings were traditionally born and raised.   He enters Jerusalem as a king to be executed as a common criminal between thieves.

Are we willing and ready to serve and guide the common man of today, as Jesus was, when he broke into human history?

May all of our family, friends, and brothers have a Christmas that transcends beyond the world that we know and reaches for the Star that approaches from the East.

Br. Jay and the Franciscans of Life

Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 10:54 AM  Leave a Comment  

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)