Who are my mother and brothers?

The reading from today’s gospel (with a few extra verses) and St. Francis of Assisi’s answer to the question.

20 Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” … 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” 33 But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) Continue reading

The Body of Christ for Francis

During these last days as the topic of racial justice was omnipresent around us, someone emailed to ask if Francis of Assisi had ever written on race relationships. The short answer is “no.” Francis of Assisi lived in the 13th century growing up in the Umbria region of Italy. His world was provincial and focused on the world in which diversity meant which town you were from and the “other” referred to the “Saracens,” against whom the Crusades were aimed in order to free the Holy Land from Islamic control. Continue reading

Fences and bridges

During WWII there was a platoon of Army Rangers deployed well behind enemy lines on a critical mission during the European campaign. A single sniper bullet had killed one of the platoon members. The mission had to continue, but they just could not leave their friend as a stranger in a strange land, buried in an unmarked grave that they might never again find. They remembered a small Catholic church in the area. So, under the cover of the moonless night, they approached the church and rectory, and knocked on the door. After a while a single light came on in the house. Eventually, the door cautiously opened, and the parish priest even more cautiously greeted them. Continue reading

Eucharist: a pattern of life in Christ

I would wager that most people would guess that in Francis’ own writings he spoke at length about poverty, his love of nature and animals, and other topics for which Francis is so well known in the modern world. Yet, in his own writings, there is perhaps no other topic that he addresses more than the Eucharist. In his Eucharistic writings, Francis expresses a deep view of the continuing Incarnation of Christ in the world, and in that vision is an entire way of life. These writings represent part of the movement of Francis’ mystical life from prayer and devotion in solitude before the cross, to a pattern of communal prayer and devotion in the Mass as well as a devotion to the Eucharist apart from Mass. Continue reading

Holding back

When I was a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy (last century!) I encountered a new phrase: “if the minimum weren’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum.” There a bit of logic to it, but…. can’t say it is the most inspiring bit of prose ever recorded. Yet, there was a sense in which tradition enshrined the saying. The person who graduated with the lowest GPA (2.5 was the minimum) was referred as the “Anchor Man.”  At the end of the graduation he was paraded around on his classmates shoulders and we were all expected to give him a dollar.  Strange tradition, that. He had done the minimum – and who knows he may have worked twice as hard as the rest of us…. Continue reading

The Feast of St. Francis

francis-in-stained-glassIn a 13th century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century which continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, led ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading

St. Francis and the Lord’s Prayer

A Prayer Inspired by the Our Father
(Expositio in Pater Noster)

 O Our Father most holy
Our Creator, Redeemer, Consoler and Savior:

Who are in heaven:
In the angels and the saints,
enlightening them to know, for You, Lord are light;
inflaming them to love, for You, Lord, are love;
dwelling in them and filling them with happiness,
for You, Lord, are Supreme Good, the Eternal Good,
from Whom all good comes
without Whom there is no good.

Holy be Your Name
May knowledge of You become clearer in us
that we may know
the breadth  of Your blessings
the length of Your promises
the height of Your majesty
the depth of Your judgments.

Your kingdom come:
That You may rule in us through Your grace
and enable us to come to Your kingdom
where there is clear vision of You,
the perfect love of You,
blessed companionship with You,
eternal enjoyment of You.

Your will be done on earth as in heaven:
That we may love You
with our whole heart by always thinking of You,
with our whole soul by always desiring You,
with our whole mind by always directing all our intention to You,
and by seeking Your glory in everything,
with all our whole strength by exerting
all our energies and affections of body and soul
in the service of Your love and of noting else;
and we may love our neighbor as ourselves
by drawing them all to Your love with our whole strength,
by rejoicing in the good of others as in our own,
by suffering with others at their misfortunes,
and by giving offense to no one.

Give us this day:
in remembrance, understanding, and reverence
of that love which our Lord Jesus Christ had for us
and of those things that He said and did and suffered for us.

our daily Bread:
Your own beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ

Forgive us our trespasses:
through Your ineffable mercy
through the power of the passion of Your beloved Son
and through the merits and the intercessions
of the every blessed Virgin and all Your elect.

As we forgive those who trespass against us:
And what we do not completely forgive,
make us Lord, forgive completely
that we may truly love our enemies because of You
and we may fervently intercede for them before You,
returning no one evil for evil
and we may strive to help everyone in You.

And lead us not into temptation:
hidden or obvious,
sudden or persistent.

But deliver us from evil:
past,
present,
and to come.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen.
[1]


[1] St. Francis of Assisi, “A Prayer Inspired by the Our Father” in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, eds. Regis Armstrong, JA Wayne Hellman, and William J Short (New York: New City Press, 1999) pp. 158-60

 

Who are my mother and brothers?

What do you wantThe reading from today’s gospel (with a few extra verses) and St. Francis of Assisi’s answer to the question.

20 Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. 21 When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” … 31 His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him. 32 crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers* [and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” 33 But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and [my] brothers?” 34 And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 35[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3) Continue reading

Francis of Assisi and almsgiving

prayer fasting almsgiving2There are many ideas that people hold about what it means to be Franciscan.  I was once asked, “Where do you friars keep the animals?”  I was living in the Soundview area of the Bronx at the time.  The person assumed that our way of life would always be surrounded by furry friends.  Later, another person wondered why we were not living out our vow of poverty by spending our day begging for alms? Continue reading

The Stigmata

stigmata-st-francis-giottoAfter Francis’ withdrawal from active ministerial leadership of the friars, he witnessed an inevitable evolution of the religious order, which had grown to over 5,000 brothers in 1223 from the humble beginnings in 1209 of Francis and four companions. The evolution of the Order, necessary on a number of levels, also began to change the life of the fraternity. Francis worried that the Spirit of prayer was being compromised and that the necessities of ministry were leading the brothers to increasing ties to material possessions. He lived and suffered in a “Time of Doubt,” as described in the previous article. Continue reading