In the Spirit of St. Francis of Assisi


#1

October 4 is the feast of St. Francis or Solemnity of St. Francis for the Franciscan family. This is an opportunity for all Catholics to reflect on their commitment to the Gospel Life. While it is true that the Church has been blessed with many holy men and women, it is also true that no other saint has had as big a following as our holy Father St. Francis. Today, there are over 1.7 million Franciscans around the world. Then there are men and women who are not Franciscans, but have a special devotion to him for many personal reasons.

There are a series of questions that my own community has designed for our brothers to reflect on as we prepare to celebrate the solemnity of St. Francis. As I was reading them, I thought that they were really very good for any Catholic who has a devotion to Francis of Assisi. So here goes . . .

  1. Do we embrace the Gospel in a spirit of obedience as St. Francis did or do we try to interpret them to fit our agenda?

  2. Do we practice obedience to the Church as our holy Father Francis did, in all matters, ordinary and extraordinary or do we take the view that the Church’s authority is open to discussion?

  3. Do we embrace detachment from material things, people and places that are not necessary for our journey toward the Kingdom of God?

  4. Do we practice chastity, not only as the absence of extramarital sex in our lives, but as a consecration to Christ our only love and the fulfillment of all our desires, as did our holy Father Francis?

  5. Do we embrace the Eucharist as the center of our lives or is it just a liturgical celebration for debate?

  6. Do we preach the Gospel by our silence and our humility or do we always engage in nonsense debates that have only one goal, to prove our superiority rather than our humility?

  7. Do we embrace every brother in the community as superior to us, regardless of his state (clerical or lay)?

  8. Do we make prayer, especially the Liturgy of the Hours, the central point of our lives or is prayer something that we get in when we have time?

  9. Do we understand that ministry flows out of a life of prayer, penance, community and do we place those first, before the active apostolate?

  10. Do we embrace ministry as a witness to Christ the first-born among many brothers and sisters, or is it just social service?

  11. Do we live a life of true penance, always striving to become the perfect Christian as was our holy Father or is penance just rules about fasting and abstinence?

  12. Do we spend time in silence, away from the world or do we use a busy day and a busy life as an excuse to avoid silence?

  13. Are we really bound to our brothers, who god has given to us or are we still bound to our culture, biological families, and national origins?

  14. Do we preach peace by striving for inner peace and inner silence?

  15. Do we absolve others from their faults or are we condescending toward those who sin or make mistakes?

  16. Do we realize that we are the worse sinners in the world and the least deserving of God’s love and that his love is a gift from him, not a reward for our efforts?

  17. Are we truly members of the poor or do we simply care for the poor?

  18. Do we see Christ in the poorest of the poor and in the most sinful man?

  19. Are we truly “alter Christus” as we stand in the place of the Christ the first born of many brothers?

  20. Do those friars who are ordained priests allow the laity to honor them or place them on a pedestal, rather than place them in the lowest place as Christ and Francis did?

Our holy Father Francis embraced these qualities, not only for the benefit of his brothers and sisters, but for the salvation of his own soul. He proclaimed these qualities to be lived by all Catholics, not just Franciscans. This is a good time to reflect on our own life as Catholics and our own journey.

I hope that some will find these helpful. Feel free to comment and share.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:


#2

Excellent questions! Let us hope that they are not just admired and contemplated, but obeyed.

It took me a long time to realize how much Our Lord loves obedience above everything else. Obedience in the smallest of things brings Him the greatest of joys for it is the small things that are the greatest! :slight_smile:

Peace be to you, JR!


#3

It’s rather interesting that you should point out obedience. People often associate our holy Father with simplicity, nature, poverty, charity, and great suffering. These things are truly part of his life. But when he wrote our rule, he said that once the period of probation is over the novice should be received to obedience.

In canon law, every religious order of men (not congregations), every order is received under a title. The title of the Franciscan order is Obedience, no poverty.

We obey the call to poverty, penance, prayer, charity, brotherhood, devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary. The entire spirituality of the Franciscan movement is based on obedience to the Holy Gospel. The Holy Gospel is the real rule of the order. Francis put this into the words of profession. Every Franciscan, friar, nun, sister, or secular makes the same public profession.

“I, Brother N, promise to observe the Holy Gospel in the manner of our holy Father St. Francis until death.”

To observe the Gospel is to obey the Gospel. We come to an understanding of the Gospel, not on our own, but through the teaching of the Church. Therefore, we cannot separate the Church from the Gospel.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:


#4

:slight_smile:
Obedience is the ‘narrow road’ our Lord spoke of. Without obedience (as you have so eloquently pointed out) we follow and serve our own wishes, wants and desires - aka. the broad road.

How we struggle and fight against servitude! Yet, it is the sweetest and most fulfilling of stations. We feel sanctified by wearing a crucifix, but we will not submit to it - not entirely at least. Why not? Because we are a slave to self and not our Lord. He says, “Follow Me”. We say, “Only so far Lord”.


#5

You have reminded me of something that happened to me this evening. I teach religious education to sixth grade. I’m teaching the Old Testament. Since this Sunday is the solemnity of St. Francis, I taught the kids how St. Francis sees Christ through the creation of Adam, the prophets and praying the psalms. At the end of the class a 12-year old boy was waiting for me outside. As I was leaving the building he stopped me and said, “Brother, what do you have to do to become a Franciscan brother?”

I explained to him that there were several things one needs to do.

  1. Love God more than anything in the world and be willing to give everything up just to be with God the rest of your life.

  2. Pray that God will show you what he wants you to do.

  3. Try to remember that Jesus is the first-born of many brothers and that a brother must be like Christ. He must be everyone’s brother.

  4. Be willing to love people who are not always very loveable and pray for them.

There were a few seconds of silence and then the boy said, “That’s pretty cool. I would like to be a brother.”

So I explained to him that he needs to obey his parents, follow the commandments, go to mass, go to confession and pray to St. Francis. I explained that he would need to be willing to make a very big sacrifice. He would have to go to four years of college and six more years of graduate school to study theology and to study St. Francis. That’s a total of 10-years.

Again, there was a silence for a few seconds. Then he said, “My father did all that schooling and all he got out of it is being a doctor. Being a brother sounds better.”

I had to smile and think, “Out of the mouths of babes.” It seems easier for a pre-adolescent to see what it means to go all the way, than it is for an adult, very often.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:


#6

Matt 18:3
*I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
*

Out of the mouths of babes. :slight_smile:


#7

I love that story. It’s really impressive how God is leading that young child. I hope I have the honor of knowing him one day!

I love the rule as you brought it out, and I cherish these timeless truths. Praise God. What wxboss said is so true, how our independence can lead us away from what is most fulfilling, how we desire ourselves more than God, and how we can so often hate obedience when it is truly one of the most lovable goods this side of Heaven. I pray for perfect unity between all of us and these divine mysteries.

May God save us from ourselves!


#8

Amen!


#9

Thank you Br. JR,

I find it very helpful and hope to apply everything that I can through the grace of God.


#10

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