Dear sisters and brothers,
On April 28, we celebrate the Feast of Blessed Luchesio and Buenadonna, the first Secular Franciscan family. Tradition holds that they received the habit from St. Francis himself. While we really cannot know the origins of our Order, we do know that Luchesio and Buenadonna were renowned for their Christian example and charity.
This year, beginning on April 28, the Consilium Internationale Ordo Franciscanus Saecularis asks that each of us reflect on and act for families. (Yes, we have a council and minister for all of us all over world!)
Our General Constitutions say:
“The spirituality of the family and of marriage and the Christian attitude towards family problems should be a theme for dialogue and for the sharing of experiences; they should share the important moments of the family life of their Franciscan brothers and sisters and they should give fraternal attention to those - single, widows, single parents, separated, divorced - who are living difficult situations …” (Constitutions, 24:2)
As the international leadership of our Order suggests, I invite you to reflect on these questions:
Before we try to answer these questions, perhaps we should ponder the words of Pope Francis about struggling families. In The Joy of Love, he reminds us to remember the omnipotence of God, especially His mercy:
This offers us a framework and a setting which help us avoid a cold bureaucratic morality in dealing with more sensitive issues. Instead, it sets us in the context of a pastoral discernment filled with merciful love, which is ever ready to understand, forgive, accompany, hope, and above all integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church and lead us to “open our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society”. (Amoris Laetitia, 312)
As we remember good Luchesio and Buenadonna, let us open our hearts to all families!
The season of Lent has been called, wisely and beautifully, "the springtime of the Church.” This year our ecclesial spring begins on March 1. For Franciscans, it can be - maybe should be - a time of deep and abiding joy. (Remember that “joy” and “happiness” are not the same thing!) After all, it is a chance for closeness with the One who loves us beyond all telling.
For us who follow Christ in the manner of Francis and Clare, there are many things we do NOT have to worry about in Lent. We don’t have to worry about how others observe the season. We don’t have to worry about whether this or that person should receive Communion. We don’t have to worry that serving the poor might harm us in some way.
Our focus need not be on what is wrong with others, the world, or even ourselves. We can make God Himself the focus of our conversion. This is what the little poor man of Assisi realized. Francis kept his focus on God. In the prayers of Francis, many words for God come tumbling out of him all in a rush. Here is the prayer he wrote after visiting the Sultan Malik al
Kamil in 1219. If you pray it slowly, you might feel a new, God - centered way to enter Lent.
The Praises of God
You are the holy Lord God Who does wonderful things.
You are strong. You are great. You are the most high.
You are the almighty king. You holy Father,
King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one,
the Lord God of gods;
You are the good, all good, the highest good,
Lord God living and true.
You are love, charity; You are wisdom, You are humility,
You are patience. You are beauty, You are meekness,
You are security, You are rest, You are gladness and joy,
You are our hope, You are justice, You are moderation,
You are all our riches to sufficiency.
You are beauty, You are meekness, You are the protector,
You are our custodian and defender, You are strength,
You are refreshment, You are our hope,
You are our faith, You are our charity,
You are all our sweetness, You are our eternal life:
Great and wonderful Lord,
What are your words for God?
Dear sisters and brothers,
As we ponder the meaning of the Feast of Epiphany, here are two good Franciscans to guide our reflection: Francis Peacock, a Secular Franciscan writing in 1942, and St. Bonaventure, theologian, writing in the 1200’s. Like us, neither of them ever met Francis of Assisi. Yet like us, they followed his example and lived the Gospel of Christ Jesus as best they could.
Francis Peacock was a Tertiary of St. Elizabeth Fraternity in Oakland, CA. She wrote a little article for The Western Tertiary on praying the Franciscan Crown in church. She wrote of the great joy and peace she found in this. Here are her thoughts on the Fourth Joy:
… I begin the thoughts on the Adoration of the Magi. If we could adore as they adored, and become so filled with Him that no longer would we ever follow our old ways. One of the most unique things about the Franciscan Crown, is the commemoration of the coming of the Magi. Popular devotion rarely thinks about those Wise Men. The Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating it, is great in the scale of the Liturgy, but half forgotten in popular esteem. I like to think of them coming through the night on camel-back, so solemn and so silent, straight to the place where the Star stood still. They find only a Baby there, lying on some straw, and a tired, quiet man, and a sweet, young mother. … They fall down and worship Him and offer gifts … Here am I, also adoring Him. But what do I bring, coming to Mass with an empty soul, empty heart, and vacant mind?
What our sister Frances Peacock experienced has been described before, by St. Bonaventure in his meditations on spiritual motherhood in Bringing Forth Christ: Five Feasts of the Child Jesus. Here the saint shares his own feelings about this scene where Jesus is found by the Magi:
We find the Child Jesus with Mary (cf Matt. 2:11) when we taste the sweetness of divine contemplation, sometimes accompanied by abundant tears of consolation, after we have shed tears of sorrow and made fruitful confession of our sins. We find the Child when prayer, which at the outset saw us almost despairing, leaves us rejoicing and assured of forgiveness. How happy such a 'Mary' by whom Jesus is conceived, from whom he is born and with whom he is found in tenderness and delight.
Wise men and wise women are all around us. Let us notice their examples – but let us each find a unique way to adore Him. May we bring Him full, joyful souls, hearts and minds.
The Immaculate Conception: A Franciscan View of Reality
Dear brothers and sisters,
What does it mean to be “full of grace”? On December 8, we will celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the Church's prayers for the day says:
Father, the image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Trace in our actions the lines of her love, in our hearts her readiness of faith. Prepare once again a world for your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Few Catholics may know its Franciscan roots, but we in fraternity can rejoice and give thanks for the slow, but sure, development of this beautiful teaching.
For centuries, especially in what is now Great Britain, the people of God long understood Mary’s conception as linked to the fullness of grace given to her. But it was up to one humble university professor to explain and justify that popular belief.
In the 13th century, holy Franciscan priest and theologian, Blessed John Duns Scotus, won a famous debate against the Dominicans. He defended Our Lady's great privilege of her Immaculate Conception, laying the groundwork for the Church (centuries later) to define this as a dogma of the Catholic faith. While he was in Paris, Scotus was an unpretentious and courageous apostle of the faith against the oppressive government in power. His public defense of the papacy as the head of the Church eventually got him thrown out of the country.
“Christ was able to redeem others. He has indeed redeemed us through the Cross so as to attract us to his love. He willed that men and women should be more worthy of the love of God.” ~ Bl. John Duns Scotus
This Advent season, may we feel free to ask help from the Mother of God, and let us pray that the Lord will truly “Trace in our actions the lines of her love, in our hearts her readiness of faith.”
May the Lord give you peace,
Donna Foley, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Old Mission San Luis Rey
4050 Mission Avenue
Oceanside, CA 92057
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