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!

 

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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.

“…And In His Saints!” A Work of Fiction from a Real Tragedy

niceThe French EMT helps load another stretcher into the ambulance, and shuts its doors as it takes off.  She wearily turns around and looks down the street of tragedy; lined with the injured, and the dead.  Just a little while ago it was full of people, celebrating the founding of a republic, celebrating Bastille Day.  Then tragedy struck in this city of Nice; one maniac in a truck, mowing the people down.  Now, there is fear, agony, and grief.  And her heart is screaming:  “Where are You in all of this?”

She closes her eyes for second.  When she opens them, she is looking at the curbside.  She notices for the first time, a little friar, dressed in a patched brown habit.  He is holding the hand of an injured child, singing a French ditty for her.

The sound of sobbing draws her attention to two women, kneeling over a covered body.  One of them is bent over with grief; the other has her arm around the grieving woman’s shoulders, holding her tight.  This woman looks like she is from the Middle East.  She is wearing a long blue veil; her face looks as if she has known much sorrow in her life, and now she is comforting another woman through hers.

The EMT looks further down the street of tragedy and saw a police officer standing guard.  He nervously stares out into night, holding his rifle tight.  The EMT blinks her eyes, because she could swear there was a girl standing next to him.  She is dressed like a French peasant, with short-cropped hair.  Her hand is gripping the officer’s shoulder, as with fierce eyes, she also stares into night with him.  Is that a sword in her other hand?

Movement next to her drew the EMT’s attention.  She stares at her medical bag, and sees that someone has placed a red rose in it.  She looks quickly behind her and thinks she sees a nun, a Carmelite nun, disappearing into the crowds.  She turns around again, but the people she saw, the friar, the woman in blue, the peasant girl, have also disappeared.  She looks down to her bag, the rose is real.  As she looks at it; she suddenly no longer feels so alone.  She grabs her medical bag, takes a deep breath, and walks back down the street of tragedy.

“Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints.”

San Damiano Cross Is Going Home!

San Damiano crossThe Franciscan blogosphere is buzzing with the news that the Cross from which Christ spoke to St. Francis of Assisi, is returning to the chapel of San Damiano!

During his period of conversion, Francis was known to visit some of the chapels that dotted the Italian landscape around Assisi.  Many were in ill-repair, one of them was the chapel of San Damiano.  Francis was said to have been drawn to the icon cross of Christ Crucified that was hanging in the chapel.  The painter of the Byzantine style cross is unknown, but experts estimate its creation took place around 1100 AD.

The story goes that when Francis entered the chapel, and knelt before the cross, he heard the voice of Jesus Christ coming from the image on it.  The Crucified Christ said to Francis: “go and repair my house, which as you can see is falling into ruins.”  Francis immediately assumed that the Divine command referred only to the chapel he was in.  He leaped to his feet, gave some coins to the priest in residence there, to keep the votive lamp burning in front of the cross, and then set off to purchase building materials.  And the rest is, as they say, history.  After rebuilding San Damiano, Francis went on to rebuild several other countryside chapels.  Christ would soon lead Francis to the realization the his call was not just to repair a few chapels, but to repair the whole spiritual edifice known as the Catholic Church.  The Franciscan movement he founded would draw thousands of individuals to join him.  Among them, a young woman by the name of Clare of Assisi, and other women as well.  They became known as the Poor Ladies of Assisi.  We know them today as the Poor Clares.

Francis installed Clare and her sisters in San Damiano, and they became the custodians of the crucifix.  Later, after the death of St. Clare, a basilica church was built within walls of Assisi, to house her remains.  The Poor Clare community also moved into Assisi, for safety, and they brought the crucifix with them.  The San Damiano Cross has been on display within the Basilica of St. Clare for many years.  Now it is being returned to San Damiano, it is going home.

San Damiano Monastery