ON ST. FRANCIS AND HIS STIGMATA AFTER HIS DEATH:
After St. Francis had died he appeared on Mount Alverna to Brother John of Alverna, a man of great holiness, while he was praying. And he stayed and spoke with him for a long time. And finally when he wanted to leave, he said to Brother John: "Ask me what you want."
Brother John said: "Father, I beg you to tell me something I have wanted to know for a long time, and that is what you were doing and where you were when the Seraph appeared to you."
St. Francis answered: "I was praying on that spot where the Chapel of Count Simon of Battifolle is now, and I was asking my Lord Jesus Christ for two graces. The first was that I should feel in my soul and in my body, as far as possible, all that pain which He had felt within Himself during His most holy Passion. The second grace I asked was that I should likewise feel in my heart that most intense love which He enkindled within Himself so as to endure such suffering for us sinners. And then God put it in my heart that He would let me feel both the one and the other, as much as possible for a mere creature. And that was fully accomplished in me during the imprinting of the Stigmata."
The Brother John asked him whether those secret words which the Seraph had spoken to him were really as stated by the above-mentioned friar, who declared he had heard St. Francis say them in the presence of eight friars. St. Francis replied that it was truly as that friar said.
Now Brother John also felt encouraged by the generosity of the giver to ask for more, and he said: "Oh, Father, I most earnestly beg you to let me see and kiss your glorious Stigmata, not because I have any doubts about them, but only for my consolation and devotion – for I have always long to do so."
And St. Francis said to him: "Here, my son, are the Stigmata which you have desired to see." And he freely showed him his hands, feet, and side, and offered them to him.
On seeing them, Brother John was overcome with amazement and fell down at his feet in fright. Then St. Francis raised him up, saying: "Arise and touch me." Consoled by the Lord, he gained confidence and began to touch those sacred Stigmata and kiss them and move the nails. And then, as he himself reported, he found out by experience that what Brother Bonaventure wrote in his Legend about those sacred Stigmata were true: that when they were pressed on one side, they extended still farther out on the other side.
Finally he asked: "Father, what great consolation your soul must have had when you saw the Blessed Christ come to you and give you the marks of His Holy Passion! If only God would let me feel a little of that sweetness now!"
Then St. Francis answered: "Do you see these nails?"
And Brother John said: "Yes"
"Touch once more this nail in my hand." Said St. Francis.
Then, with great reverence and fear, Brother John touched that nail. And when he touched it a scent suddenly came forth from it, spiraling up like smoke, as incense does. And entering through Brother John's nose it filled his soul and body with such sweetness that he was immediately rapt by God in ecstasy and became unconscious. And after the Blessed Father Francis disappeared he stayed in that rapture from that hour, which was tierce, until vespers. And for the next eight days he was unable to eat, and everything he saw seemed fetid to him.
Brother John never told anyone but his confessor about that vision and intimate talk with St. Francis, until he was about to die. But when he was near death he revealed it to many friars.
Source: Little Flowers of St. Francis - 1330
Easter Sunday homily by Fr. Robert Altier
Reading I (Acts 10:34a, 37-43) Reading II (Colossians 3:1-4)
Gospel (St. John 20:1-9)
"Alleluia" - that beautiful word, which we have not heard for six weeks, once again pours forth from our mouths. "Alleluia." It comes from two Hebrew words that mean "Praise Yahweh." In English, it means "Praise God." While we continue to speak the English, the Hebrew we have not spoken. Now, it comes forth again; and we praise God with our whole heart because we celebrate the most important event in human history today. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.
When we think about our Christian faith, we need to ask ourselves, "What do we really believe?" Most of us were baptized as little babies, and we were raised as Christian people. Sometimes, we never stop to think about what we believe. We go through the motions week after week, but sometimes it never really sinks into the depths of our hearts. Today is the day that makes us truly Christian. Today, we will renew the baptismal vows that were made so many years ago (for most of us). They were made the day we became Christians; the day we professed our faith in the Holy Trinity; the day we rejected Satan and all his empty works and promises; the day we said "Yes" to Jesus Christ. But it is more than simply saying, "Yes, I believe." For Christian people, on the day we were baptized, we were baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have been made sharers in His Death and Resurrection. We are members of Jesus Christ; that is what Saint Paul is talking about in the second reading today.
We see what happened today, 2000 years ago, and we rejoice wholeheartedly that our Lord rose from the dead. We realize that this is not an event just for Him alone. As wonderful as it is, what difference would it make to the rest of us if all we could do was say that He rose from the dead? With modern medical technology, we can suggest that a number of people have risen from the dead. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and a couple of other people as well. But the interesting thing is, if you think about Lazarus: Peter, who ate and drank with Lazarus after he was raised from the dead (we are told, in Scripture, they had a banquet for Lazarus and Jesus and his disciples were invited to it), didn't run around the countryside proclaiming the forgiveness of sin in the name of Lazarus, who was risen from the dead. That is because Lazarus was not resurrected; he was resuscitated. Lazarus had to die again.
In Jesus Christ, death has died, death has been destroyed. There is no more dying for Christ. And for us, who are baptized into Jesus Christ, we share already in His death and resurrection. Saint Paul tells us, "Set your sights on the things above, not on the things of earth. Because you have died with Christ. When Christ your life appears in glory, you also will appear with Him." That is our faith as Christian people: The resurrection from the dead. This is something that, on the natural level, is very difficult for us. It means that your body, the one sitting right there in the pew, is going to rise from the dead. Your body will share physically in the death of Christ. It already shares mystically in that. You will share physically in that one day, as well. You will also share physically in His Resurrection. Your body, like the body of Jesus Christ, will rise from the dead. Not like the body of Lazarus, because Lazarus's body had to die again. The body of Lazarus will rise on the last day, but he still awaits that. So, there is a difference between what happened with Jesus and what happened with Lazarus; it is not the same thing.
Only in Jesus Christ is there a resurrection. Only in Jesus Christ do we proclaim our faith. Only in Jesus Christ is there forgiveness of sin. Because of His death and resurrection, He is the One who will come again to judge the living and the dead. So, for all of us, we need to ask ourselves, "How much does this really mean to me? How much does my faith in Jesus Christ really mean? Is it the central element of my life? Am I truly seated at God's right hand already, in Christ? Am I living that way? Do I really believe that?" In just a couple of moments, we will renew our baptismal vows. We need to ask ourselves, "Do I really reject Satan in my life? Am I truly living for God in Jesus Christ? Do I live the faith I profess? Have I rejected sin? Have I rejected death?"
You see, people in our society are terrified of death. We do everything we can to live longer. That is a mystery I have never understood. The goal of life is to get to Heaven; why anybody wants to stay here any longer, I do not understand at all. Set your sights on the things above, where Christ is already seated at God's right hand and you are seated there with Him. Why do you want to hang out here any longer, if you can be with Him? Now, I am not suggesting that we should go out and have a mass suicide or anything ridiculous, but it is simply to say, that for Christian people, death is not something to be afraid of. Death has been destroyed in Jesus Christ. Death is a doorway now, that we have to go through if we want to enter into eternal glory. It is not something we fear; it is not something we should try to avoid; and, for Heaven's sake, it is not a reason we should seek a way to prolong our life here on earth.
You see these unfortunate things now. With all this cloning, people are saying, "Now I can be immortal." You are. You are immortal already. Your soul will never die. Jesus looked at Martha (when Martha came out to meet Him) and she said, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would never have died. Now, I am sure God will give You whatever You ask of Him." Not only did Jesus tell her that her brother would rise, but He went on to say to her, "Whoever believes in Me, whoever is alive and believes in Me, will never die." Then He looked at Martha and said, "Do you believe this? Whoever is alive and believes in Me will never die." Your soul is immortal. Your soul, your entire person, is already in Jesus Christ. You have died with Christ already in Baptism and you have risen with Christ already in Baptism.
If you are in the state of grace, you have absolutely nothing to fear in death. Rather, it is something we should embrace joyfully, that we should look forward to; not because we want to die, but because we live, we have life in Christ. That is what our faith is all about. Do not look for ways to hang on here; look for the ways to get to Him. There is only one way: He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. Do we want life? Then we want Jesus Christ. Do we want the truth? Then we want Jesus Christ. If we want the only way that leads to life and to truth, then we want Jesus Christ. There is nothing in this world that will get us to Heaven. There is nothing in this world that will make us immortal. There is nothing in this world that will allow us to live forever. But Jesus Christ, who is already seated at God's right hand, has made us immortal. He has promised us eternal life with Him and has given us everything we need to achieve and fulfill that promise. Do you believe this? That is what we are going to state in just a moment, when we renew our baptismal vows.
Today and everyday, as Christian people, we each sing "Alleluia." We praise God because we do not live in fear anymore. We are people of hope; we are people of praise. So, we need to look very seriously at ourselves after having come through the forty days of Lent, where we were trying to die to our passions, where we were trying to put the self and all the things of this world aside, so we could focus on life in Christ. Today, as Jesus rises from the dead and we celebrate the Resurrection, we really need to look at ourselves. Having put that other stuff aside so we can see more clearly, we need to ask ourselves, with brutal honesty in the depths of our hearts, "Am I filled with hope in the Resurrection?" Not merely, "Do I believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?" You would not be here today if you did not. Are you filled with hope in your resurrection from the dead? Are you filled with faith that you are already seated at God's right hand, and therefore, that you already take part in the divine worship of Heaven, which is exactly what happens right here on the altar?
If you are already seated at God's right hand, then you have been re-created in Jesus Christ for the praise of God's glory. That is why, today and everyday, we sing "Alleluia." It is because we already behold God. In Heaven, all they do is worship God and praise Him for eternity; and we, out of God's love, have already been incorporated into that heavenly worship so we can praise Him. What we await now is the day when we will enter physically into that. Spiritually now, and mystically, we worship Jesus Christ in the Eucharist; and we praise Him there where we can not yet see Him. But we await the day when we will truly behold Him face to face, and the day when our bodies will rise from the dead to be reunited with our souls and forever we will sing the beautiful hymn to the Lamb: "Alleluia! Praise God!"
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing He is the current Visitor to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis...
"They found the stone rolled away from the tomb..." (LK 24:2)
The Last Supper, Our Lord's Passion, death, and burial. The stone is rolled away from the tomb. Death will lose its sting, and Jesus will lead us in triumph to paradise, for He is risen!
May we all have made some progress in rolling the stone of worldly attachments away from our hearts too this Lent. May our hopes and our dreams now be more centered in Jesus, and that we may live with Him forever in the eternal joy, light, and love of heaven. He lives, and there He has prepared a place for us, and He wants us with Him where He is.
Have a holy and happy Easter and enjoy the Solemnity of the Octave of Easter, during which our Rule, though never the prayers, is suspended.
Let us rejoice! He is risen! Alleluiah!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
by Janet Klasson BSP
"Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!"
(From the Exultet of the Easter vigil)
Rejoice dear Brothers and Sisters! I say it again, Rejoice! This is the night when heaven was wedded to earth and man was reconciled with God! This is the reason for our hope. We who follow Christ in the Way of the Cross as penitents have every reason to rejoice at his resurrection, not because our own feeble efforts have any merit, but because of the grace our Lord gives us every day to complete the work he has begun in us.
If we remain faithful to his call, if we persist on the Way, no matter how feeble our efforts, how imperfect our prayers and penances, our Savior has promised us a share in the resurrection! And this promise is not just for us, but for all those whose souls God has given us to pray for. His mercy and his love for sinful souls is unimaginable. Let us never underestimate the depths of his mercy, but with joy and gratitude take up our cross daily and follow him for the sake of the souls God has placed in our care, not forgetting our own. Let us trust in Jesus the risen Lord who longs to draw all people to himself.
Christ is risen! Alleluia! Alleluia! Have a blessed Octave of Easter dear brothers and sisters.
Janet Klasson BSP - Canada
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP - Easter 2008
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world… Let no one trouble me, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body." (Gal. 6)
"We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you, because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world." We repeat this beautiful prayer of St. Francis every time we enter Church. We must understand the mystery of the Cross of Jesus in order to carry our own, uniting our sufferings with those of our Savior. That mystery is shown to us in the lives of our heroes, the Saints, who are God's gift to us.
Unfortunately we don't have an autobiography from St. Francis, or letters concerning his interior prayer life such as we have from Mother Teresa, for example. I couldn't help but think of Francis while Fr. Michael Keating talked about his sister in Christ. He said that Jesus had raised her to a higher prayer life, a near-rapturous experience of God with the prayer of union just around the corner. Then she began her new life at the age of 40, and experienced an inner dryness in which she felt abandoned and forsaken. It was a terrible cross for her, but she told Jesus, "If this will give You glory, I will accept it." Her longing for God became more pronounced.
Abandonment and desire grew together, an odd combination, because desire normally accompanies the presence of God. But then she realized this was an embrace from the Cross. Jesus was bringing her to an intimate participation in His abandonment on the Cross. She said, "Suffering like this is the kiss of Jesus on the Cross." That's why the words: "I THIRST" are next to the crucifix in every chapel of the Missionaries of Charity.
To better serve her neighbor, she had to learn how Jesus was poor and forsaken, so TOGETHER they could serve the poor and forsaken. The worldly cannot understand such devotion. Mother Teresa was just a "happy humanitarian" to them. But love such as hers is reserved only for the friends of God. "Love till it hurts," was her motto. "Give the Lord permission to lay His cross upon you." She did, and so can we.
Francis was so closely united to Jesus in His Passion that he bore His very wounds. He can truly speak for the Crucified Jesus. Francis also lived among the poor and forsaken, but his influence was more comprehensive in promoting the Gospel, a teaching ministry to help make disciples of all nations. That includes a recent sighting of Mikhail Gorbachev, kneeling at the tomb of St. Francis for half an hour.
Francis understood that an intimate connection to the Passion of Jesus was the source of JOY. The Passion of Jesus is not a tragedy, but a pattern for our own lives which conquers our inner darkness. Joy and love meet in the Cross of Jesus. We need to pray for the grace of an inner walk with Jesus. Francis has provided the itinerary for that walk through the example of his life and his Rule. There he gives very precise details for any who wish to follow in his footsteps on the path to holiness, through an intimate participation in the Passion and Cross of Jesus Christ, "through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Paul Beery BSP
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
a.k.a. the BSP, is a non-profit Private Association of the Faithful, which is dedicated to renewing the ancient way of penance as contained in the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 for lay people in our modern world. We have the blessing of the Catholic Church to do this through several of its bishops. If you are bound by another Rule of life in another profession of the way of St. Francis that does not permit you to enter other religious families you are nonetheless invited to become an Honorary member of our Association and add the elements of this beautiful way of life that Saint Francis of Assisi gave us to the lifestyle of your profession.
All members, and Franciscans, are welcome to submit articles for consideration for inclusion in this newsletter if they are directed towards the spiritual formation of members or are the outgrowth of the lifestyle of the Association. Just send them to the BSP at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to share this newsletter with your friends or neighbors. It is intended to be the primary monthly communication of the Association. And if you can find it in your heart and in your budget remember that donations to the BSP are used strictly to promote the lifestyle and are tax deductible. We remain, always, sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Welcome to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance!
"He has filled the hungry with good things"
(From the Magnificat of Our Lady)