Thursday, December 23, 2010

Greccio, the Creche, the Eucharist

(From: The Spirit of Secular Franciscan Life Newsletter for Secular Franciscans - Assumption BVM Province December 2010 - No. 30, edited by Fr. Roch Nieman, OFM, Provincial Spiritual Assistant.. Taken from an article by Fr. Charles Finnegan, OFM entitled: “Lest We Forget: Christmas Is a Year-long Incarnation.”)

Christmas scene carved into the mountainside at Greccio

St. Francis of Assisi is often credited with giving us "the first Christmas Crib." While his devotion to the Christmas mystery no doubt influenced our modern custom of arranging Nativity scenes in our churches and homes at Christmas, what Francis did at Greccio was different. There were no statues or images of Mary, Joseph or the Babe, only the ox and ass. What Francis "invented" at Greccio was the “Eucharistic manger." The manger was the altar. Eucharistic bread and wine were placed over that manger, not an image of the Infant. Two great mysteries, the Incarnation and the Eucharist, were visibly shown to be intimately connected.
Although there was a “vision” of a lifeless babe coming alive in the hands of Francis, all the biographers (Thomas of Celano, St. Bonaventure and Julien of Speyer) report the same: an empty manger but a child waking up in the hands of Francis. Francis notes this close association between Bethlehem and the Eucharist in his writings. In his “First Admonition.” He writes: "See daily He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne into the womb of the Virgin; daily He comes to us in humble form; daily He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar,” just as shepherds brought gifts to the altar, the most important being the gift of themselves.

The faith of St. Francis, who often said “I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,” should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life.

Speaking of this gift, St. Francis wrote: "Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally”. The very word "Christmas" reminds us that the great Christmas celebration is the Eucharistic liturgy celebrating the Lord’s birth. The word "Bethlehem" means "House of bread" and for Francis, Christmas was above all else the coming of Him who is “the bread of life” and “the living bread come down from heaven.”

Francis knew well that Christmas is for children, children of all ages. Thomas of Celano, Francis’s first biographer, wrote: “At Greccio Francis became a child with the Child." Only the little ones can come before the Crib full of awe and simple joy, "lost in wonder" at the marvel of it all. Only the little ones can celebrate with purity of heart the feast of the littleness of God. Only the humble can recognize the awesome power of this littleness. Clarence Jordan, originator of the “Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel” liked to say: “God moved in with us.” He became what we are, to make us what He is. He took on our humanity so He could show us God’s love, and in exchange gave us a share in His divinity so we could live forever. The liturgy calls this “a marvelous exchange.”

At Christmas we sing and pray: “A Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:11). This wonder (this Bethlehem) takes place every day upon the altar…Francis grasped that truth and awakened that mystery for us. This is what transpired in the cave at Greccio: an altar, an empty manger, and Jesus comes to earth once again.

The Eucharist is the center of the life of the Church. Christ unites us to Himself and to one another as a single body in it. Therefore, the Eucharist should be the center of the life of the fraternity. The brothers and sisters should participate in the Eucharist as frequently as possible, being mindful of the respect and love shown by Francis, who, in the Eucharist, lived all the mysteries of the life of Christ.

Pax et bonum

Prayer for Secular Franciscan vocations

National Prayer for Vocations to the Secular Franciscan Order

Here is our version of the national prayer. Perhaps it could be cut and placed somewhere that it could be prayed daily.

Good and Gracious God,
God of mercy, compassion generosity and love,
as we live our lives in the model of Saint Francis,
choosing daily to live the Gospel life,
Help us to help others hear your call,
Help us to help others to recognize their vocation
as a Secular Franciscan
that You have already planted in their heart,
Help us so that together we all may work
to bring the Gospel to life.

Pax et bonum

Advent Novena

Advent Novena

Hail and blessed
be the hour and moment
when the Son of God was born
of the most pure Virgin in Bethlehem
at midnight, in piercing cold.
In that hour, vouchsafe 0 my God,
to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior
Jesus Christ and of His Virgin Mother. Amen.

Imprimatur + MICHAEL AUGUSTINE, Archbishop of New York, New York, February 6, 1897

Pax et bonum

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Franciscans advance toward sainthood

Pope Benedict XVI has advanced the sainthood causes of 16 of the faithful - including 5 Franciscans.

The announcement was made following the Pope’s meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, head of the Vatican’s office for the causes of saints, Dec. 10.

The New Blesseds include:

Servant of God Marie Clare of the Child Jesus (nee Libania do Carmo Galvao Meixa de Moura Telles e Albuquerque), Portuguese foundress of the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (1843-1899);

Servant of God Antonio (Miguel Faundez Lopez), Spanish professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor (1907-1936), killed during religious persecution in Spain;

Servant of God Bonaventura (ne Baltasar Mariano Munoz Martinez) Spanish cleric of the Order of Friars Minor (1912-1936), killed during religious persecution in Spain;

Servant of God Pedro Sanchez Barba (1895-1936), Spanish priest of the Third Order, killed during religious persecution in Spain;

Servant of God Fulgencio Martinez Garcia (1911-1936), Spanish priest of the Third Order, killed during religious persecution in Spain.

The others whose causes were advanced included a bishop declared a saint: Blessed Guido Maria Conforti, who founded the Pious Society of St. Francis Xavier for Foreign Missions, the Xaverian missionaries.

Declared Blesseds were Servant of God Francesco Paleari, Italian priest of the "Cottolengo" Institute (1863-1939); Servant of God Anna Maria Janer Anglarill, Spanish foundress of the Institute of Sisters of the Holy Family of Urgell (1800-1885); Servant of God Dulce (nee Maria Rita Lopes Pontes), Brazilian religious of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (1914-1992); and Servant of God Alois Andritzki, German diocesan priest who died in the concentration camp of Dachau (1914-1943).

The new Venerables are Servant of God Antonio Palladino, Italian diocesan priest and founder of the Congregation of Dominican Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (1881-1926); Servant of God Bechara (Selim Abou-Mourad), Lebanese religious of the Basilian Salvatorian Order of the Melkites (1853-1930); Servant of God Maria Elisa Andreoli, Italian foundress of the Congregation of Reparatrix Sisters Servants of Mary (1861-1935); and Servant of God Maria Pilar of the Sacred Heart (Maria Pilar Solsona Lamban), Spanish religious of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary, Religious of Pious Schools (1881-1966).

Pax et bonum

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The monthly message from the National Minister

The Heart of Our Faith is the Person of Jesus Christ

Our faith begins not in a thing, nor in a doctrine, nor in a church, though things and doctrines and churches flow from where our faith begins. Our religion is founded not at a great battle, convocation nor discovery; not in assertions of great ideas of persuasive arguments; not in messages from "the heavens" nor "angels" nor "the clouds;" not in an overarching code of ethics, morals nor system of philosophy. No, our founding stems from none of these, although many things of various natures may stem from our one foundation, who is not a what, nor a when nor a where nor even a why. The heart of our faith is the person of Jesus Christ, true God and truly human.

Article 4 of our SFO Rule tells us: "The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people. Christ, the gift of the Father's love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly."

Article 5 continues: "Secular Franciscans, therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters, in Sacred Scripture, in the Church, and in liturgical activity. The faith of St. Francis, who often said, 'I see nothing bodily of the Most High Son of God in this world except His most holy body and blood,' should be the inspiration and pattern of their Eucharistic life."

The General Constitutions (9.1) follow our SFO Rule: "The spirituality of the Secular Franciscan is a plan of life centered on the person and on the following of Christ, rather than a detailed program to be put into practice."

Article 10 of the General Constitutions elaborates: "'Christ, poor and crucified,' victor over death and risen, the greatest manifestation of the love of God for humanity, is the 'book' in which the brothers and sisters, in imitation of Francis, learn the purpose and the way of living, loving, and suffering."

Whatever "preaching" we may do, whether best by our lives or even by our words, that preaching must start and finish with Christ. Whatever we do, may we never forget Christ.
Let us pray, "Holy Father, through the Holy Spirit, bring us ever closer to your Holy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. He is 'the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end' (Revelation 22:13). He said, 'I am the way and the truth and the life' (John 14:6). Our faith is Christ. Our entire Franciscan Way of Life must strive to stay true to Christ, in Christ, with Christ. We pray in faith in the name of your Son Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen."

Tom Bello, SFOMinister, Secular Franciscan Order - USA

Pax et bonum