St. Elizabeth of Hungary – Patroness of Secular Franciscans

St. Elizabeth of HungaryToday, November 17th, Franciscans around the world, but especially Secular Franciscans, will celebrate the memory of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.  With St. Louis IX of France, she is Co-Patron Saint of the Secular Franciscan Order.

Born in Hungary, in 1207, she went to the German territory of Thuringia, to become the wife of its ruler, Louis.  Together they would have four children.  She would become well known for her acts of charity to the poor, establishing a hospital for the ill; and food for her poor subjects. Her husband would die from illness, while he was traveling to join an Imperial Crusade to the Holy Land. Court intrigue forced Elizabeth, with some of her children, to abandon the capital city, and flee. In a smaller, poorer city, she took residence and continued her service to the poor. Influenced by the recent arrival of Franciscan friars, she took one of them as her spiritual advisor. She would eventually become a Franciscan penitent. She would also eventually die relatively young.

St. Elizabeth can be, in fact, is a counter cultural example for our modern times. With our fascination with the rich and famous. With a minority of people controlling the majority of wealth in our country; to hear of a young, energetic woman willingly give up her riches for the poor, should shake our complacency. How best can we answer Christ’s command to feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; welcome the stranger. And what opportunities have we missed to do so?

Through the intercession of St. Elizabeth, may our eyes and hearts be open to those in need.

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Weekend Coffee Share – 10/22/2017

deacon coffee mugWelcome! Here is a cup of coffee, hot off the Keurig. Today, I want to share experiences from last weekend. Last Saturday, the second Saturday of the month, my Secular Franciscan fraternity holds its monthly meeting. It is held at Saint Anthony’s Shrine, located in downtown Boston, MA. I have been trying to attend this meeting more regularly; so, I was up early in the morning, grabbing a commuter train. I transferred to the subway, and got off at Downtown Crossing, Boston.
I came early into the city; so I would be able to walk around the area before the meeting. It had Downtown Crossing 2017been a while since I had made such a walk about. The biggest change in the neighborhood, is the Millennium Tower. Built in the space where the famous Filene’s Department Store once stood, it is a very, very tall high-rise building. It houses department stores, offices, and condominium apartments. I have not been around Millenium Towerthe entire building, so I was amazed at the changes I saw! One thing that really stood out for me; was the number of coffee shops that are in neighborhood now! I am not talking about an increase in the number of Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks; but places like Caffe Nero. One can imagine the amount of caffeine flowing through the veins of the residents and office workers!
Bromfield Pen ShopOne stop that I had to make was the Bromfield Pen Shop, which is located, where else? On Bromfield Street! It has the largest collection writing instruments, including fountain pens, I have ever seen. And the most expensive collection of pens I have ever seen! I like looking over their pens, and the notebooks and journals they sell also. Sadly, I have only been able to purchase a Pelikano Junior, a very sturdy plastic fountain pen. I purchased a new box of ink cartridges for it, and with a wistful look behind me, left the shop.

St Paul cathedral EpiscopalI continued to walk up Bromfield St., towards Tremont St., which forms one border of the Boston Common.  My intention was to visit the Episcopal St. Paul Cathedral.  The church was established in 1819, as an Episcopalian parish.  In 1912, St. Paul’s was designated as the Cathedral Church of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.  When I worked in the Downtown, I would visit St. Paul’s on a regular basis; I found the quiet interior to be conducive to meditation.  Back then, it still had, what I would call, cubicle seating.  The pews arrangedInterior St Paul and separated by stalls.  I had heard that the cathedral church was going to be renovated, and I wanted to see the result.  When I entered the main church, I was stunned!  Gone were the pews, the memorial plaques on the walls, the altar rail.  It was wide open space, with stackable, plain chairs arranged for some service.  The interior was flooded with natural light, streaming from the skylights above.  And in the center, was a labyrinth.  Music flooded the church, as an organist was playing at the organ in the chancel of the Cathedral.  I still had a very peaceful experience during my time there.
I left the Cathedral and made my way to the Shrine, to attend the 12:00 Noon Mass, with the rest of the fraternity. I had forgotten that this Mass was going to be a special one, because we were St. Anthony Shrine 2017celebrating a Profession. A young man, Bobby Hillis, was going to profess his intention to live the Gospel life, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, by following the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order. For about a year and half, he has been in formation, learning what it means to be a Franciscan; in his personal life; his life in the Church; his life in the world. After the homily, before the Franciscan priest, who was our celebrant, and our fraternity Minister, and the whole Fraternity, he declared:

I, Bobby Hillis, by the grace of God, renew my baptismal promises and consecrate myself to the service of his Kingdom. Therefore, in my secular state I promise to live all the days of my life the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Secular Franciscan Order by observing its rule of life. May the grace of the Holy Spirit, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our holy father St. Francis, and the fraternal bonds of community always be my help, so that I may reach the goal of perfect Christian love.
[Ritual of the Secular Franciscan Order, pp. 23 & 24.]

After the Profession Mass, we all gathered in the Shrine’s auditorium for a celebratory luncheon. For anytime a new member is professed, it “is a cause of great joy and hope for all the members of the community and for the whole Church.” (Ritual, p. 24)

SFO Profession 1 102017

SFO Profession 2 2017

 

So that was my trip into downtown Boston; now the coffee cups have to go into the dishwasher rack. Hope to see you again next week.

 

The Transitus of Saint Francis of Assisi

TransitusOn this evening, October 3rd, throughout the world, members of the Franciscan family, and persons attracted to Francis of Assisi; are gathering in churches, chapels, friaries, monasteries, and convents. We gather to commemorate the passing of a beautiful soul, from this life into eternal life in heaven. We will read the stories of his final days, offer prayers of thanksgiving to God, for the gift of Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi, born a cloth merchant’s son, he would become a mystic, an evangelist, a lover of the poor, a lover of God. Through him, people were drawn back to faith, to living the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thousands of men were inspired to follow Francis as members of the Order of Friars Minor; thousands of women joined his disciple, Clare of Assisi, in monastic communities known as the Poor Ladies, later the Poor Clares. And thousands of ordinary people, men and women, farmers and merchants, rich and poor; gathered together as Penitents, under his and his brethren’s guidance. They would become known as the Third Order of St. Francis, later the Secular Franciscan Order.
For twenty years, Francis strove to live the Good News of the Jesus Christ; now his life on this earth was ending. Friar Thomas of Celano, an early biographer of the saint, told this story of his passing:
“Then, when many brothers had gathered about, whose father and leader he was, and while they were standing reverently at his side awaiting his blessed death and happy end, his most holy soul was freed from his body and received into the abyss of light, and his body fell asleep in the Lord. One of his brothers and disciples, a man of some renown, whose name I think should withhold here because while he lives in the flesh, he prefers not to glory in so great a privilege, saw the soul of the most holy father ascend over many waters directly into heaven. For it was like a star, having in some way the immensity of the moon, but a certain extent the brightness of the sun, and it was borne upward on a little cloud.” Celano, First Life: 110
Francis of Assisi, by his life and his words, continues to inspire many Christians to live a deeper commitment to Christ. The story of his life continues to inspire pilgrims to come to Assisi, to visit the places key to life, and to his final resting place. Pax et Bonum!

 

Franciscans Reaching Out!

St. Francis of Assisi, and his fellow friars were different from other religious of their day.  Rather than remain in monasteries, behind walls; they went out into the city streets, marketplaces, and the highways to bring the Good News to all.

Today, Franciscan friars are still exploring new avenues of reaching out to people.  The internet, the Web, and Facebook have become the new electronic highways they travel.

I found this poster on an MBTA Red Line subway car.  I know the friar pictured in it, Brother John “Mags.”  a wonderful friar.  

The Good News of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in many ways, through many new mediums.  But, bottom line, it is how each one of us lives the Gospel that provides the best evangelization.

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics, indeed, all peoples, to pray for the care of Creation.  He asks that we first offer praise and thanks to God the Creator for the precious gift of this earth.  Then, we should pray that He sends His Spirit into our hearts, to inspire us to care for this gift He has given us.  Pope Francis composed a prayer that he included in his encyclical “Laudato Si’,” that could provide a good starting point for our reflections.  I am also including below, a prayer, a hymn, by St. Francis of Assisi.  He is joining with all of Creation, in giving praise to God.  May we all do the same this day.

Francis and Brother Sun

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is Yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To You, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all Your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and You give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of You, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens You have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which You give Your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom You brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of You;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by You, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve Him with great humility.

Feast of St. Clare of Assisi – 2016

Today, the Franciscan Family, with rest of the Catholic Church, celebrates the memory of Clare of Assisi.  A young noblewoman of the medieval city of Assisi, she was inspired by St. Francis of Assisi, to leave a life of wealth and influence, and follow the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, guided by Francis, she and a group of liked minded Assisian women, formed a community of prayer, and evangelical poverty.  Living a hidden life of contemplation, with very few known writings in existence; she has been a source of inspiration to many to seek a more intimate relationship with God.

The Order she confounded with Francis still exists, now known as the Poor Clares.

Feast of the Porziuncola August 2, 2016

PoziuncolaToday, Franciscans everywhere are celebrating the Feast of the Church of St. Mary of the Angels of the Porziuncola (Little Portion).  Actually, a small chapel, it is one of several chapels around Assisi, Italy, that St. Francis of Assisi repaired; shortly after his conversion.  He was doing this in response to a mystical encounter with the Crucified Christ, who commanded Francis to “Repair My House!”  Taking the command literally, he began to repair the chapel of San Damiano, and the other chapels.  It was only later that he understood his mission was to “repair,” (ie, renew) the Catholic Church.

St. Mary of the Angels became the “mother church,” of the Franciscan Order, and indeed, the entire Franciscan movement.  Francis and his first followers built huts of mud, straw and wattle around the chapel, and used them as cells.  The little portion of  land on which the chapel stood, belonged to the Benedictine monks of Mount Subasio, who have rented the site to the Franciscans, in return for a basket of fish.  Over the years, the chapel became a pilgrimage destination, and eventually, the Franciscans and Pope ordered that the simple little chapel be enclosed in a huge grand basilica; the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels.

Today, the little chapel, located in this huge basilica, will be visited by Pope Francis.  It ties into the Jubilee Year of Mercy, that the Pope declared last year.  The little chapel is the site of one of the most famous indulgences granted by the Catholic Church.  Although the historical fact has not been proven, legend has it that St. Francis asked the Pope to grant a plenary indulgence to anyone who came to the Porziuncola chapel, praying for forgiveness of their sins.  An indulgence is granted to the soul of an individual, which remits some of the temporal “punishment”or “cleansing,” that a soul must go through in purgatory, before being admitted to the full beatific vision of God in heaven.  A plenary indulgence grants a full remittance.  The “Porziuncola Indulgence,” was originally granted only to those who visited the chapel, later Popes expanded it to those who visited a Franciscan church, chapel, or oratory.  It was finally also granted to those who visited any church designated by the local bishop, between the afternoon of August 1, to sunset on August 2.  They must at least recite the Our Father or the Creed; and must go to Confession, receive Communion, and pray for the intentions of the Pope.

Indulgences is a means by which the Church illustrates the mercy and love of God for all people.  And it is why Pope Francis is making the journey to Assisi, to go into a huge, ornate, basilica; to enter a very small chapel, that has the power of God’s love.