The Fall brings with it a season of change. In many parts of the country, the leaves turn color before they fall to the ground, providing all sorts of crunchy sensations as we shuffle through them on the sidewalk. The natural world is resplendent with cycles of becoming quiet and in some ways ‘dying to self’ in the Fall and bursting out with new life in the Spring.
As Secular Franciscans, we are called to be brothers and sisters of Penance. What kind of Penance? What does this even mean? Penance and be several different things: it can be related to self-control, perhaps giving something desirable up for Lent (self-discipline), it can be repairing damage that we ourselves have caused (Christian atonement), it can be the total turning to God out of faith, sorrow, or love, that becomes a way of life (Conversion). All of these sorts of Penance can be experienced in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Let’s talk about Conversion. In the book ‘To Live as Francis Lived, A Guide for Secular Franciscans’ by Leonard Foley OFM, et al:
Let us embrace this Season of Change and turn our lives to God. Let us look at the spiritual life with ‘new eyes’ and willingness to see situations from new perspectives – and to learn from that. In this time of such great cultural consternation, let us be open to Conversion. As Fall comes with shorter days and longer nights, I ask that we each be a channel of God’s Light in the figurative darkness. And I pray that we each receive the gift of ‘Illumination’ – to see the world and each other not through our eyes – but through the eyes of God.
Pace e Bene +
Laura OFS, Minister
Our Lady and St. Francis: Each a Resounding ‘Yes’ to God
Fr. Dan Horan OFM, invites us, on the Feast of the Stigmata —to look within, see how each of us does or does not bear the marks of Christ in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Perhaps we won't receive the marks of Christ in the form of five wounds, but we could certainly—and should certainly—make visible the presence of Christ in every other way. How are we called to make visible the presence of Christ to others?
he feast of the Stigmata is a reminder of the power of love, as seen in the opening prayer for the feast day Mass:
“Lord Jesus Christ, who reproduced in the flesh of the most blessed Francis, the sacred marks of your own sufferings, so that in a world grown cold our hearts might be filled with burning love of you, graciously enable us by his merits and prayers to bear the cross without faltering and to bring forth worthy fruits of penitence: You who are God, living and reigning with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Pace e Bene +
Minister, San Luis Rey
Art: Cimabue - Madonna Enthroned with the Child, St Francis and Four Angels, 1278-80. Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi
Honoring St. Clare
Sister Claire André Gagliardi, OSC, tells us that ‘Clare was a cofounder of the Franciscan movement, where Clare supported Francis as he discerned God’s message for himself and his followers. Together with her sisters, she wrote the first Rule written for religious women by a woman.’ Not only do we have Clare’s Rule, we also have the benefit of her spiritual insights through correspondence: her letters to Agnes of Prague. This was social distancing not due to disease, but due to geography.
In the days before cell phones, email, or Zoom, Clare and Agnes communicated via hand written letters personally carried back and forth between Bohemia and Assisi by Franciscan Friars as they made their dangerous travels on foot across Europe. Clare shared her insights about the spiritual life with Agnes in these letters. The letters span a time period of 19 years. The first letter first letter is very formal, Clare, as Abbess and leader of her own religious community, is addressing a Princess, the eldest daughter of a King. Clare shares her fascination in Jesus in this letter. The Second letter dwells on Poverty and Contemplation, Clare asks Agnes to gaze upon Christ, contemplate Christ. Clare encourages us to look prayerfully, to think deeply, and through contemplation, to become Christ-like: to see our reflection in Christ, and Christ’s reflection in us. In the third letter, Clare bolsters Agnes up in meeting the challenges in living a Franciscan life. The fourth and final letter is written near Clare’s death; the letter is full of peace and joy and is considered by many as ‘one of the most beautiful pieces of spiritual literature.’ I invite you to spend time with Clare’s letters; they are posted on our website here.
May God Bless you and Keep You and in this extended time of Coronavirus and separation from so many that we love, please God, we’ll meet again before too long.
Seeking First to Understand
I love in the Gospels when Jesus goes off alone to pray, often in the darkness before dawn. His prayer is not the thing of fireworks as are his signs and miracles before great crowds – his prayer seems almost incidental to the ‘action’ in the story; Jesus goes off to a quiet place, listens to God, and seeks to understand:
And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. (Mark 1:35).
We see this quiet, listening prayer at key junctures in many Gospel stories: before the multiplication of the loaves, before choosing the twelve apostles, before Peter’s profession of faith that Jesus is Christ, before the Transfiguration, before teaching the apostles the ‘Our Father’… in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion. Each lead to an implicit invitation to see the world in a new way. Through the eyes of Jesus.
It would seem to me that as a society we’re also at key junctures in our own cultural story: The corona-virus pandemic, the lock-downs, incidents of police brutality, protests for racial equality, violence. There is so much ‘action’ occurring all around us that a time of listening and reflection – a time of seeking first to understand would be immensely helpful. Fr. David Gaa, OFM, the Minister Provincial, will be joining us at our Fraternity gathering on Sunday, July 12th to talk about his public letter on racism. We are invited to enter into a time of sacred listening – to seek to understand the story he shares – to understand his exhortation that we all pray and struggle for racial equality.
I extend the invitation for each of us to engage our Franciscan souls to be open to hearing the message offered to us from our Franciscan Provincial. It is totally ok for us to not be comfortable. How God calls us to reflect, to be challenged, to be transformed – is up to God. But it starts with one small step… our going off to a quiet place in our hearts, listening to God…and seeking first to understand.
Fr. David concludes his letter saying that he is ‘convinced that is we give ourselves more completely to the Lord he will come to our aid and help us do what we do not have the strength to do. We are all in this together.’ That thought I embrace gratefully and wholeheartedly – indeed we are all in this together. And together may we seek to see the world - through the eyes of Jesus.
Pace e Bene +
As we continue to live with the shadow of the pandemic, we also continue to receive the grace of God present in our Catholic faith. We look forward to the feast of Corpus Christi and the celebration of the belief of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This celebration arrives as our hearts are full of longing for the Eucharist.
God is present to us in the Eucharist we have been blessed to receive throughout the years – of Sunday and often daily Mass. That grace does not go away. Jesus, present in the Eucharist transforms those who receive him. God is present to us in the Eucharist that we may be able to draw close to in the form of Eucharistic Adoration.
God is present to us in the scriptures. Consider prayerfully reading, reflecting, and praying as ‘Lectio Divina’ the Last Supper narratives (Mt. 26:17–30, Mk. 14:12–26, Lk. 22:7–39) or John 6. John 6 connects the Eucharist to the miraculous feeding of five thousand and contains the “Bread of Life” discourse, where Jesus teaches that his flesh is true food and his blood true drink. God is present to us in our Community as we gather, even virtually.
“Sacrifice” © Jen Norton. Used with permission. www.JenNortonArtStudio.com
As we move into the celebration of Corpus Christi, let us like St. Francis, share in the awe of the Eucharist. Let us be like spring flowers with roots that run deep in Jesus and nourished by the waters of prayer and all the sacramental grace that God has so generously poured into our hearts.
Pace e Bene +
Christian hope is not the belief that everything always comes our right… that is optimism. Optimism is about tomorrow. Christian hope is about today. Christian hope is understanding that during these hard times, God embraces us. This Easter of all Easters… it is a time of hope.
It is hope that will sustain us today and through the long haul. It is hope that will sustain us in the darkness. It is hope that will be a bubble that ‘floats’ above the chaos. It is in hope that we connect with each other and remain steadfast in prayer. It is spirit of hope that pervades our father Francis’s joy in all things. It is this hope, this Christian hope, that we are called to live – individually and as a community. We are all in this together; let us together share Christian hope.
Pace e Bene +
Detail from 'Flock in the Promised Land' © Jen Norton. Used with permission. www.JenNortonArtStudio.com
With the implications of the Coronavirius in our midst, words from the book of Ecclesiastes echo across the millennia, 'a time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing...' For us, this meant that our April gathering was quickly moved online via Zoom, and that as always, we remain connected through our Cord Newsletter and our direct outreach to each other. The Minister's Note in our Newsletter is extensive this month, but I would like to highlight two incredible Franciscan women here.
Sr. Marianne insisted in abject cleanliness and thorough handwashing frequently and throughout the day, with every patient.
With the grace of God, she kept her promises. She and her Sisters lovingly ministered to the people with leprosy - and none of her sisters contracted the disease. Let us all ask Sr. Marianne to pray for us – as we emulate her example… prayerfully trusting in God, caring for others – and in something as simple and important as washing our hands.
On Palm Sunday in 1212, Bishop Guido left the sanctuary to personally give Clare a palm branch, a sign that she was accepting God’s call to follow Jesus in the footsteps of Francis.
Being from such a wealthy family, what a huge leap of faith it must have been for her! This was a brave act of radical conversion. I see Clare in the image above with that could be a palm in her hand; I wonder what she must have felt in that moment. With great trust, she placed her life in the hands of God. I invite you to reflect on a poem, 'Clare's Flight From Home' by our Vice Minister, Sandy, that prayerfully imagines that night. I also pray that we are all so brave to live with such trust in God, love of Jesus, and inspired by St. Francis.
Pace e Bene -
A Spirituality of Encounter
We are called to a spirituality of encounter. We encounter Christ in the Eucharist (and all the Sacraments), Scriptures, in prayer, in creation, and in each other. We are called to walk with Jesus – to pick up our cross and to follow Him.
On the Via Dolorosa, pilgrims would reflect upon Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary. Francis was so touched by the experience of walking the Via Dolorosa, that when he returned from the Holy Land, he popularized this experience of the ‘Stations of the Cross’ so that all Christians could share in the experience. Each time you see the ‘Stations of the Cross’ devotion on the walls of a Catholic church, you’re looking at a Franciscan devotion – a Franciscan gift to the church.
In the Stations of the Cross, we encounter the Passion of Christ. We prayerfully walk with Jesus. In both the Gospel of John and depicted in the San Damiano cross, we are like the apostle John, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mary's sister (Salome), Mary (wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene – we are present at the foot of the Cross. This Lent, let us be present. Present at the foot of the Cross. Present through the ‘Via Dolorosa’ we each experience in our own lives. Let us open our hearts to the suffering of others. Let us accept in gratitude all that Jesus has done for us. As a Fraternity, we will be spending time reflecting on the Stations of the Cross at our March gathering.
Each month, we are all invited to be present for our shared time of community prayer. I wholehearted and earnestly invite everyone to experience as much as our day together as you are able. Mass (10am), Lunch (11:30), Community prayer (12:30) Adoration (12:45), and finally our gathering (1pm – 3pm). Please, if you are able, arrive by 12:30pm so we can experience this dedicated time of prayer and adoration together – as a community. Let this be a spirituality of Encounter.
Pace e Bene -
A Love Song –
While in pain and darkness, Francis composed the first section of the most joyful of songs, the 'Canticle of the Creatures,' sometimes also called the 'Canticle of Brother Sun.' This song is full of praise for God and the brightness & beauty of all creation.
Francis then instructed his brothers to go to these leaders and ask them to prayerfully listen as they sang the Canticle that praises God, creation, and all those that seek peace. Through the intervention of Francis, the persistence of the Brothers, and most importantly, through the grace of God, the two rivals forgave each other and made peace.
On the way, Francis encountered a leper. Rather than steering clear out of revulsion and concern for his own safety, Francis dismounted his horse, overcame his terror, and approached the leper. Francis gave the leper both money… and a kiss. Something incredible happened inside Francis at that moment. He had a joyous ‘Aha!’ moment, an epiphany – he saw that the face of the leper was the face of Christ.
Secular Franciscan Order
Old Mission San Luis Rey
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Oceanside, CA 92057
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