THE MIRACULOUS MEDAL: A STORY IN FAITH
From Winnie Ferguson BSP
You ask what lead me to the Miraculous Medal, which I now promote in the Church.
My mother and I were coming back from a retreat, we were eating tacos and listening to music from Medjugorje. We both began weeping. We were touched by the music. Mother sat up in her seat and asked: “Did you see those big birds?” They almost hit the car. No , but I do wonder what is in your taco, Mother. Then she began crying, look there is the Blessed Mother! Our car be came electrified, as I looked out ahead of the Ford, going down I-90 70 miles an hour. I looked out the window and there Our Lady was in a niche in the cloud. The sun was spinning, the cloud took on many shades of pastel colors. I pulled off the road to the side and we sat for what seemed like hours gazing at the image. We were in a daze. I then saw a dome around her like Our lady of grace in the Miraculous Medal. At this time I knew nothing of St. Catherine. Only what the medal was called; Miraculous.
Mother and I turn the car around and went to the Leaflet Missal book store. I said Mom she is trying to tell us something! My mother agreed. When I got to the store I headed for the books I found the story of the Miraculous medal and St. Catharine's mission that lead to its creation. It lead me to Association of miraculous medal and the importance of wearing her garment, the Miraculous Medal, ( St. Maximilian called it his “bullet”) with her scapular.
In Medjugorje Blessed Mother spoke to Marija,
"These days I want you to pray in a special way for salvation of souls. Today is the feast day of the Miraculous medal and I want that you to pray for the salvation of those people who are carrying this medal. I want you to spread the devotion so that more souls may be saved, and that you pray for this in a special way".
Join the Association of the Miraculous medal. It has lead me to the Militia Immaculata: Knights of the cross. Offer all in union with the suffering of Our Lord for the salvation of souls. Please remember to wear her bullet and scapular and pray her rosary. Let us listen to our Heavenly Mother!
My mission is prayer and penance, all for the love of God , Mother Mary and souls. My pledge to the BSP will help me live this commitment more fully.
Peace in Christ, Winnie Ferguson BSP
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS: IX. Charity
Our Lord says in the Gospel, “Love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44). A man really loves his enemy when he is not offended by the injury done to himself, but for love of God feels burning sorrow for the sin his enemy has brought his own soul, and proves his love in a practical way.
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Saint Louis IX, King of France (1251-1270)
"Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Gal. 6:14
This personal confession of Paul applies to this Saint too.
Born on April 25, 1215, Louis was the son of King Louis VIII. He was religiously brought up by his mother, Blanche of Castile. Since his father died when he was only eleven years old, Queen Blanche was his regent. She instilled in him a desire for holiness and a horror of sin. She would often say to him, "Louis my son, sin is the only great evil in the world. Though I love you very much, I would rather see you dead at my feet than see you commit one mortal sin!" The boy promised Our Lord that he would never commit a mortal sin.
Louis was educated also by the Friars Minor and became a Franciscan Tertiary. He never forgot the teachings of his mother nor did he fail throughout the whole of his life to pray the Divine Office daily, to fast and perform other acts of penance and self-denial, and to follow the Rule of life he had adopted as a Franciscan Tertiary. Even though he had so many affairs to look after, he attended two Masses and said the Divine Office every day. It is also St. Louis who started the custom of genuflecting during the Creed when the priest said the words, “Et homo factus est”.
St. Louis gave a wonderful example when he received Holy Communion. He would walk toward the sanctuary with great humility, in deep thought, and then crawl on his knees to the altar. After saying the Confiteor with groans and tears, Louis would receive Holy Communion with great love and devotion.
One day, during the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the palace chapel, St. Louis was working in his study when suddenly one of his servants excitedly burst into the room exclaiming, "Your Majesty, a beautiful miracle is taking place in the chapel. The Infant Jesus is appearing in the Host upon the altar!" But St. Louis calmly continued his writing replying gently, "I could not believe more firmly in Christ's presence in the Eucharist if I were to see a miracle! Miracles are not needed for those who already believe!"
When he was nineteen, he married Margaret of Provence, who was only 12 years old. They had 10 or 11 children. Louis was a good husband and father, and loved Margaret, but insisted that they abstain from marital relations between Advent and Lent. He also tended to dress very plainly, which his wife didn't care for.
When he was 21 years old, he took over the rule of his kingdom from Queen Blanche. As a king, St. Louis gave to all the example of a life overflowing with wisdom, charity and justice. It was with fear and trembling that he had taken up the role of monarch. He did not take his obligations lightly. He continually fought against abuses, not hesitating to punish nobles as well as those less powerful. He forbade lay investiture, simony, and usury, and punished lords who oppressed people. He listened to the poor and the needy. He had time for everybody, not only for rich and important people.
Louis should not, however, be portrayed as a stained-glass figure. Like all men he had faults. He was quick-tempered and sometimes violent, and had to struggle against his gluttony in order to be faithful to the Rule.
The Sainte Chapelle in Paris where the relic of the Crown of Thorns of Jesus is kept
In 1239, Baldwin II, the emperor of Constantinople, sent him as a gift the Crown of Thorns of Jesus found in Jerusalem. Louis fervently received the precious gift and built in Paris the beautiful Sainte Chapelle to enshrine the relic.
In December of the year 1244, Louis became ill, and it was thought that he would die. After a suddenrecovery, Louis vowed he would lead a crusade to the Holy Land. King Louis lived in the days of the crusades; and for him there was no nobler quest than to wrest from the hands of unbelievers the Holy Land sanctified by Jesus' death.
Preparations for the Crusade required three years. After entrusting the regency to his mother, Louis embarked from Aigues-Mortes on August 25, 1248. He took his wife and children with him, since he preferred not to leave the mother and daughter-in-law alone together. His fleet comprised about 100 ships carrying 35,000 men. Louis' destination was Egypt, whose sultan had captured Palestine. The city of Damietta on the Nile was easily captured, and Louis made a solemn entry into the city. He came, not with pomp, but with the humility of a truly Christian prince, walking barefoot, in religious procession.
But the crusade turned into a fiasco. Louis' army advanced across the river to attack the Saracens. Six months of fighting followed, in which the French army was captured and Louis was imprisoned. Captive in chains, Louis showed himself ever the same, the first, the best, and the bravest of Christian knights. He was offered his liberty on terms lawful in themselves, but enforced by an oath which implied a blasphemy, and though the infidels held their swords’ points at his throat, and threatened a massacre of the Christians, Louis inflexibly refused.
After much mistreatment, and even torture, Louis obtained the release of the army by paying a huge ransom.
Louis remained in Palestin, visiting the Holy Places. In four years he was to transform a military defeat into a diplomatic success, conclude alliances, and fortify the Christian cities of Syria, until 1254 when news arrived of the death of his beloved mother, the queen regent.
Returning to Paris, Louis ruled with justice and wisdom. He was devoted to his people, founding hospitals, visiting the sick and, like his patron St. Francis, caring even for people with leprosy.
St. Louis fully intended to undertake another crusade. Baybars, the Sultan of Egypt, had conquered Galilee, Haifa and Cesarea. Most of his conquests were followed by massacre of the native Christians.
On July 1, 1270, Louis sailed to Tunis with his three sons. While awaiting the arrival of his brother, the king of Sicily, typhus struck the French army and one of Louis' sons died. On the same day Louis and his eldest son, Philip, were stricken with the disease.
On Sunday, August 24, the king received the last sacraments and prayed, "Lord, I will enter into your house, worship in your holy temple, and give glory to your name." He asked to be laid on a bed of ashes.
He died the following afternoon, uttering with his last breath the words of our Lord on the cross: "Into Your hands I commend my spirit." He had really been "In the world, but not of it, for Christ".
The crusade dissolved, and Louis's body was brought back to France. All along the way, through Italy and France, crowds gathered and knelt as the procession passed. It reached Paris on the eve of Pentecost in 1271. The funeral rites were solemnly performed at Notre-Dame de Paris, and the coffin went to rest in the abbey of Saint-Denis, the tomb of the kings of France.
As we struggle with failure in our lives, let us remember King Louis. We have to understand the whole plan of God, His modus operandi -- how He operates -- and we have to put things together. Saint Louis failed the Crusades, but won a heavenly crown by his life of detachment, justice and charity.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
NO GREATER LOVE: by Paul Beery
“I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves. You must be wise as serpents, and guileless as doves. Be on your guard against men, for they will deliver you up to courts, and scourge you...”
This will be something of a postscript on last month's events that will affect us far into the future. I apologize in advance for touching on politics again in this holy place, but the importance of the last election for the advance of the Kingdom of God cannot be overstated. I'll be as brief as possible.
We have only one concern as members of the Body of Christ: the Pro-Life side won as convincingly as was possible in a polarized nation and world, and with such varied and strident forces arrayed against it. The difference between the Pro-Life worldview and that of the Culture of death is a gulf greater than the Grand Canyon. The two main political parties have defined themselves as being on opposite sides through a so-called "litmus test," especially on abortion. But the Pro-Life party doesn't like to dwell on that fact, due to the incredible power of the pagan media to present the Culture of Death as a good thing, confusing even those trying to do the right thing. For a perfect example of the power of the media to shape people's thinking, look at the results of the Illinois Senate election. Alan Keyes, the "perfect" Pro-Life Catholic candidate who emphasized the horror of abortion, was crushed, receiving only 27% of the vote. There were other issues involved, of course, but the gulf between the two worldviews was on display for everyone to see, and one thing is obvious: most people do not want to be openly confronted with such a serious question of conscience. Label Alan an "Extremist" and put the issue on the back burner - out of sight, out of mind.
So both political parties do a little dance, a little sleight of hand, pretending to be all things to all people, so as to alienate the fewest. But the wise see through the charade, using the test Jesus gave us: "By their fruits you shall know them." Since political parties change positions over time, they must be constantly re-evaluated in the light of the Gospel. In fact, we have seen the gradual transformation of a once honorable party that most Catholics belonged to as a matter of course, because they felt it best represented the Catholic faith. But the leaders of that party have dragged it to the left, where it now represents purely secular values and the Culture of Death, the very antithesis of the Gospel, while maintaining many of the trappings of its former self. Elements within the party have become vociferously anti-Christian and anti-American; traditional American values being defined as GOD-CENTERED, MORAL values based on absolute principles of right and wrong. Moral relativists have taken over. A brief note. I prefer to use the terms "left" and "right," instead of liberal and conservative, which don’t show the full picture. I suggest these terms are also very scriptural. The just are called the “righteous.” John wanted to sit at the "right" hand of the Lord, which term has a long history. At the Last Judgment, the good (sheep) will be placed on the "right," the evil (goats) on the left. Plus, it’s good to be right rather than wrong anyday.
The term “left” or leftist is used ideologically, to denote someone more radical than a typical liberal. Former Communist and leftist David Horowitz is the expert on how the radical left has taken over the liberal agenda and the liberal party and pulled it so far to the left Rip Van Winkle wouldn’t recognize it! People of faith clearly do, however, as 80% of those who attend Church more than weekly voted Pro-Life, as well as 56% of Catholics overall. To me, that was the outstanding result of post-election analysis. Some say we will soon have a Pro-Life party of faith and a Pro-Abortion party of secularism. In effect, we have them already.
only question is, will they maintain their present agendas, because battles are constantly being waged for the soul of both parties, and the future direction they will take. Not much is likely to change, however, for the foreseeable future. Our job as faithful Christians is to constantly evaluate which is worthy of our support, and then unite behind it to give it clout, and make sure it remains dedicated to the Gospel of Life. Some expect perfection in a political party before they will support it, which will NEVER OCCUR. The term is incrementalism, by which the goal is reached by measured progress, not all at once. And today, the most important issue for the future is reform of the federal judiciary. The nation has not lost it’s bearings because of legislation, but the evil of leftist judicial activism, perfectly exemplified in Roe vs. Wade. But that's only one of many laws protecting our God-Centered American heritage that have been overturned – the greatest example of voter disenfranchisement that exists! I just read very encouraging words recently. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled unanimously to throw out frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers stating: “Any change of this magnitude in the law affecting a highly regulated industry must be the work of the Legislature, brought about by the political process, not the work of the courts.” That’s the attitude the Supreme Court must have, and since it is a self-regulating body, only federal judges with integrity will freely limit their power. They will interpret the existing Constitution, not invent a "living" one of their own. Thank God we have a president committed to selecting Pro-Life, strict constructionist judges with integrity and moral character.
While we can rejoice in leadership at the top, we have our job to do at the bottom. The ACLU, Catholics for a Free Choice, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are seeking to have the IRS revoke the tax-exempt status of the archdioceses of St. Louis and Denver in “an attempt to marginalize faithful Catholics and silence their voices in the public square, and threaten to deny the Church its right to pass on teachings of the faith.” (Our Sunday Visitor, Nov. 14) The secular watchdog groups will investigate “a handful of bishops” for being “loud and strident” in proclaiming the Gospel of Life, when “there’s plenty of evidence that (most) Catholics in America have different views on abortion than the pope and other hierarchy.” Francis Maier, chancellor of the Denver Archdiocese and special assistant to Franciscan Archbishop Chaput, also acknowledges “that the frequent labeling of anyone who supports Church teachings on life issues as being part of the Christian Right is due not only to a secular society that is openly HOSTILE toward faithful Christians, but also to increasingly SECULAR CATHOLICS who are looking for an excuse to support a particular candidate or issue.” For those on the left, politics IS their religion, and they expend a lot of emotional energy defending their Secular "religion" from the faithful of the Christian Right, going so far as to prevent anyone with faith-based opinions from expressing them in public. Incidentally, don't you love that title: Christian Right? It has a certain ring to it.
We have a real mission in the BSP. Maier continues, “There’s just a deep lack of faith. We have this wonderful exoskeleton of the Church but there’s no interior life or much diminished interior life. There’s going to come a point soon, a tipping point, where it’s all going to unravel…a huge and very ugly awakening when the whole thing comes crashing down (producing) a great falling away from the Church. I think the environment is going to rapidly become more hostile to the Church over the next 10 years; the disease is so deep in the culture. The fundamental issue is that most people don’t believe. They want to go to Church and feel comfortable about things. If they really believed the Nicene Creed they say every Sunday their whole lives would be different.”
I'll never forget what Archbishop Flynn said at the time of our pledging, Jan. 11, 03. He was so favorably impressed with "this group of lay people seeking to live the Gospel more fully." My friends, our Church and our nation is experiencing a deep crisis of faith. We must not only live the Gospel more fully as people of enduring faith, but be wise as serpents and guileless as doves politically while doing it.
We have set before us two saviors: an earthly and a heavenly: the earthly savior of Secularism and its Culture of Death, or our heavenly Savior Jesus Christ and His Gospel of Life. We must choose between them, because “a Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” If anything will bring unity to the disparate members of the Body of Christ, it will be in first recognizing, and then fighting, this common enemy. Yet we must not be overcome by secular activity to the detriment of the interior spiritual life.
Our holy Father Francis brought Jesus our Savior close-up and personal to the people of his day, and he continues to do it today. Every time we see a Christmas crib we can thank St. Francis. Every time we study and attempt to follow his Rule in the pursuit of holiness, we can thank him again. Every time we seek to live the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis we can thank God - for the gift of faith, and the grace and courage to live it more fully. No one has shown us the love of God as purely as our holy father. During this Advent period of expectation for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, let us love Him in return with all our heart and all our soul, for there is no greater love to pursue than the love of God.
(Paul and his wife, Donna, are both founding members of Morning Star Chapter of the BSP in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Paul is also a formation advocate.)
Let Him be born!
by Winnie Spencer-Dealy
Advent is upon us, and we take great joy in preparing for the great celebration of Christmas. Our Rule tells us to fast during Advent to prepare for the birth of Jesus, and we do so with joy. This preparation is so very important, for we are preparing that Jesus be born in our hearts this season, and that He establish His home there forevermore.
Of course, we know as Christians, that Christmas is more than wrapped gifts, parties, and family get-togethers. Christmas is the feast where Jesus comes to us as a little babe. What do we do with babies? We care for them with the tenderest of care, nurturing them lovingly with out whole selves. Can we really do this with Jesus? Of course we can! We will nurture Him in our own self, in our hearts. We will feed this Child our very best "milk," which is our pure intentions, and our love.
This Child is hungry for us, and weeps when we sin. How can we best avoid sin and falling into temptations? By prayer and penance, the essence of our Rule. With prayer and penance we are fortified against the temptations of the spirit of evil, and we can amend all things with prayer and penance. Let us remember to say our prayers reverently and with great love, and to practice our mortifications with zeal for the Lord.
Of course, we will have parties and family get-togethers. Some of us may be traveling to see loved ones, or have loved ones who have traveled to see us. This is no reason to let go of our practices. We can keep the real "reason for the season" in our hearts at all times, and keep our penances hidden for the little hidden Christ in us. He is pleased at our practices--let us not neglect our Rule!
So let us not forget the little Babe Who is coming to us this season, to make His place in our hearts. Let us clean our hearts and make them a welcoming place for Him to lay His tender head, that His life may take root in out spirits, and that we may become that which He wants for us to be. Our prayers we will not forget, or penances we will practice with care, to make for Him a suitable place to be born in our lives. My prayers will be added to yours that He may find us worthy to be born in us, during this great and holy season.
May God richly bless us all!
Winnie Spencer-Dealy BSP
Create in me an open heart, o God...
by Anna Ferroni
Back in 1982, my spiritual director told me something that I will never forget. He said, "Anna, you have a closed heart." That sentence stunned me and urged me to ask back, "What prevents my surrender to God? Where is my resistance? What is the invitation that God is giving me now?"
My spiritual director then said, "It is not easy to open our hearts when we are angry, afraid, hurting, but when we do, healing and peace can enter into and proceed from us." "How do hearts become open?" I asked again. My spiritual director answered: "The Spirit of God does it. We are so often blind to our own dark motives, and these motives blind us and hold us in our selfishness. But we MUST get beyond ourselves to surrender to God.
In a comprehensive sense, the opening of the heart is the purpose of spirituality, of both our collective and individual practices. The Christian life is about the opening of the self to the Spirit of God by spending time in prayer and mortification. Prayer and mortification are those practices through which we become open to and nourished by the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being. God is the Mystery where we live and move and have our being. To know God, we have to love Him here below. Love gives a living knowledge. Loving and knowing come together.
With the intellect, we look at God outwardly. It is through grace that we penetrate His inner life. Grace is participation in the life of God; a real sharing in His life. You will get His grace through prayer and mortification, and His grace will open your heart. Then you will be transformed into a living flame. Contemplation will transform you. Contemplation is real contact with God, which perceives something of His mystery and obscurity. Contemplation is a certain, though obscure, knowledge of God."
I am sharing this with you because I believe it is still true for me, and because I think, it may be interesting for everyone to reflect about what opens and closes our hearts on a daily basis. I am aware that some days my heart is more open than other days. Even in the course of a single day, there are moments when my heart is more open or more closed. Sometimes it is closed because of bad health, tiredness, worry, or busyness. I know that my heart is closed whenever I feel grumpy or self-occupied, when the world looks ordinary, or when the voice of criticism is strong in my head, whether directed at myself or others. I even look kind of ugly, when my heart is closed.
When our hearts are closed, we live within a shell. The shell needs to be broken open if the life within it is to enter into fullness. What we need is the “hatching of the heart.” And if the heart is not hatched, we die. This hatching of the heart, i.e. the opening of the self to God, is the goal of the individual dimension of the Christian life. As my spiritual director said, it happens through prayer and mortification. We don't have to seek Love and Knowledge elsewhere. We just need to seek it within ourselves.
THE RULE AND STATUTES
THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
CHAPTER I: DAILY LIFE
RULE: ARTICLE 5
They are not to go to unseemly parties or to shows or dances. They shall not donate to actors, and shall forbid their household to donate.
STATUTES: ARTICLE 5
Attendance at immodest functions or events at which immodest or immoral behavior is exhibited or fostered, except to condemn such behavior, is forbidden by the Rule. This would include movies, parties, plays, and so on.
This is definitely an area we can all improve on. We can turn off our TV’s and screen our movie options to avoid what is unseemly and impure. It seems that almost everything offered to the public to be seen these days is offensive in one way or the other. We need to pray for our moviemakers, as they can do so much good if they only watch what and how they present the movie themes. We don’t donate to actors anymore. Where we donate we can do that to many good and wonderful causes.
The ‘so on’ is another serious commitment we must all make. We should not support any group that is not in concert with the Church and its teaching. The entire Pro-life movement deserves our support. So we should not go anywhere in support of the Pro-Choice side of things. We should live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We should work to unite the Church, not divide it.
We are often limited in what we can actually forbid of others, including our families, especially once they grow up. We are never limited in living and talking a good example. We should always do that respectfully, openly, and with love. In this way we can become a light to our modern world.
The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel
Painted by Duccio di Buoninsegna in 1308
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 approval 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 or a committed Franciscan life. Just send them to the BSP of St. Francis at the address on this newsletter. 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!
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)