Published for the Lay Association of
The BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE
FROM THE WRITINGS ON ST. FRANCIS:
The Admonitions of St. Francis
The Words of Admonition of Our Holy Father Francis, as the complete title reads in the Quaracchi edition of the Opuscula, contains twenty-eight rather short exhortations or reminders to the early friars concerning various points of the ascetic life. They form a kind of mirror of perfection for anyone called to follow the Franciscan way of life, for Francis presents in them his ideal of Franciscan observance in the various points covered. They are replete with a knowledge of human nature and with practical good sense. They are a good source of meditation for members of any Franciscan Order or group, or for that matter any of the Faithful and certainly the members and friends of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.
It is impossible to say how or when exactly the Admonitions were first composed, but it is quite likely that they were not gathered together until after the death of the Saint. It is known from the Legend of the Three Companions and from other sources that at the early general chapter meetings of the friars, held at the Porziuncula near Assisi, that St. Francis used to give “admonitions, corrections, and precepts” to the friars. These Admonitions, as they have come down to us, may be a collection of these sayings and exhortations given at these chapters, augmented by others given at other times. Some authors prefer to consider them notes of Cardinal Ugolino and St. Francis left over from the draft of the Rule or not belonging properly to such a Rule.
Cardinal Ugolino is the author of the First Rule of the Third Order of 1221, giving great value to the Admonitions of St. Francis as a near perfect consideration of his advice to us as lay people on what is important, beyond our Rule, in our spiritual development and growth.
COMMENTARY: : by Bruce Fahey BSP
Each month we feature one of the Admonitions of St. Francis in this newsletter. In this way we can all come to known them a little better, and hopefully gain some deep spiritual insights into how we can live them over perfectly and in that way embrace the Gospel more generously. Perhaps in future issues we may even add commentaries to the Admonitions on how we can more perfectly embrace them as lay people. In any event, they are wonderful sources of reflection.
Especially as we enter the new year we all may wish to take some time to go over the Admonitions and consider their application in our lives. Considering their depth and beauty it would be easy to form some powerful resolutions in our lives consistent with the content of specific admonitions. And one of these might even be that we will pass on wholesome, non-judgmental admonitions to those around us as did St. Francis himself in his day. One could hardly do that without living the Spiritual works of mercy more deeply. The primary apostolate of the Association is to live the Gospel of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, more perfectly, and we do that primarily by living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy on a day-to-day basis in our lives in the world. The Admonitions may help us live them more perfectly.
ADMINISTRATORS MESSAGE: RESOLVED!
by Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
The year begins anew and it is a good time to consider our resolutions, especially as they relate to our life in the Church and our commitment to Christ. It is not like we are going to accomplish them all, but it is important to consider what it is we offer the Lord. His demands on us are diverse, and always relate to how we love Him and others in our world. He is Love.
So, what might these resolutions look like? It is an interesting question and if we are not accustomed, as we are, to framing resolutions throughout the year we do well to do that now. Here are some things to consider.
If you have not surrendered your life to Christ, resolve to do it. And every event and circumstance in it. If you have surrendered your life to Christ but are still complaining about the things that are happening to you or blaming others for what happened resolve to get over this. If you are truly surrendered you do not blame anyone for anything that happened to you, and that includes not blaming yourself. You accept that at this moment in time it is the Lord’s will that this happens and you simply surrender it to the Lord and perhaps ask “So what am I to do with this Lord?” with a smile, and in silence. You leave things in the Lord’s hands. If someone is to be chastised let it be the Lord who does it. He does do it, for our betterment, and He is always loving. He only wants us in heaven. This world is passing away.
If you have people with whom you are not reconciled with whom you think you should reconcile (and that is a very real question that is perfectly legitimate to ask as there are people with whom we ought not reconcile except through prayer and letting them go in peace) then resolve to accomplish it. Particularly if it is family it is imperative that you try to ‘fix’ things if you can. You cannot always do that. You need to then decide on a program of prayer and perhaps sacrifice to amend things. Certainly if you pray for your enemies you are meeting the Lord’s admonition, and wisdom could dictate that is all you should do for some. Otherwise, if you cast your pearls before them, they may trample them and attack you as well. Once a mistake; twice a fool. Be prudent, prayerful, and wise.
Resolve to build your prayer life into a regular and strong program of prayer. How? It varies person by person, but you should understand the stages of prayer. The general stages to keep in mind is that there is vocal, mental, and mystical prayer. There are more stages of mystical prayer than of mental or vocal, and the consolations of the Lord are generally granted in mystical prayer. You can pray vocally or mentally. You must wait on the Lord to give you mystical prayer, and it will generally not be given unless you have a very healthy life of vocal and mental prayer, and, in the words of famous author and spiritual director, Fr. Thomas Dubay, “Live the Gospel generously”. That includes doing penance of course. Consult with a wise spiritual guide, who understands prayer, to put together a strong, challenging, and active prayer life that includes Mass, and receiving the Eucharist frequently, regular reconciliation and healthy amounts of mortification. Our Rule is a good baseline to start from but most people that grow in the spiritual life move beyond it by adding more time to prayer than the Rule requires. When you put it together, do it, and never stop doing it. God will move from there. Believe us, it will happen. ‘When’, is up to the Lord.
Finally, resolve to be at peace. This is the peace that comes from the things already discussed. From having a strong prayer life. From being reconciled with everyone including those who discard you like a dirty rag while pretending to be your friend. From being truly surrendered to Jesus in all things, in deep silence and prayer, and relying on Him to handle everything for you. Mary, at Medjugorje, once gave the message, ’If you but pray four hours a day God will do everything for you. That is only one sixth of your day.' May the Lord bless us all, and give us the resolutions we need for the New Year!
Give "The Prayer of Jesus" a chance! By Anna Ferroni BSP - Italy
"Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner"
Already in Jesus lifetime Jesus' name was used in prayer by those in need. We find an example in the case of the blind man, Bartimaos. When Bartimaos was told that Jesus was passing by on the road, he cried out "O Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me" (Mark 10: 47). Jesus bestowed on him his sight, and healed him. Bartimaos' prayer was taken as a model by those later believers who sought Jesus’ mercy. This form of prayer, short, addressed directly to Jesus, and employing His personal name, Jesus, while asking for His mercy, proved later on to be well suited to foster contemplation and holiness in the faithful. The brevity of such a simple style avoided all pride and fostered spontaneous outpourings of humility.
Such characteristics came to mark the private prayer of the desert fathers of Egypt. There are any number of examples of such brief, spontaneous prayers preserved in the Sayings of the Fathers.
Arsenius used to say: "Lord lead me in such a way that I shall be saved."
Apollo's usual prayer was : "Lord, I have sinned like a man, have mercy on me like God."
Macarius adopted a similar style: "Lord as you wish and as you know, have pity on me."
One of the earliest to understand that the name of Jesus had an important place in prayer was the abbot St. Nilus, who lived in the fifth century. He taught that prayer that called upon the name of Jesus had a particular efficacy and should be used tirelessly. After him, Diadoch stressed the value of interiorizing the prayer by meditating on the holy name of Jesus in the depths of the heart, and striving after the constant memory of His presence. He recommended such practice as a way of unifying the soul, freeing it from mundane imaginations.
However, neither Saint Nilus nor Diadoch speak of a specific formulation to be used, but leave that to the individual. It was only in the next century that the wording of prayer directed to the Lord Jesus seems to have assumed a relatively fixed form with the short formula : "Lord Jesus, have pity on me". Ever since then, the Fathers recommended the use of the Name of Jesus constantly, as the preferred instrument of watchfulness over the heart.
This name, Jesus, used with the strictest attention of the mind, serves as a purifying fire. The Lord, through this practice goes on to instill in us an ardent love of God's glory, and so this prayer becomes an instrument of transformation and recovery of the likeness of the soul to God. This interiorization was understood as a means of attaining to a state of constant prayer, in keeping with St. Paul's command to "pray without leaving off" (Thes. 5: 17).
This prayer was cultivated especially by monks first at Mt. Sinai then at Mt. Athos as a particularly helpful way to arrive at constant prayer. There arose a tendency to employ a fixed formula and to eliminate other more spontaneous expressions. The formula that was used by the Byzantine monk Isaiah was this: "Lord Jesus Christ, have pity on me; Son of God, help me." Thus it expressed not only sorrow for sin but the desire and need for the assistance of our Savior. Later, in Gregory of Sinai and his followers at Mt. Athos, the focus was strictly on the need for mercy, expressed in the prescribed wording: "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me." The brevity was considered a help to concentration on what one was saying.
In the further developments associated with the Prayer of Jesus, there arose the practice of associating the repetition of the formula with breathing, and to slow down the breath as a way of aiding deeper concentration. The intent of this psychosomatic exercise was to unite the spirit with the heart.
The more constant and essential elements of this prayer, i.e. the brevity, the use of Jesus' name, the humble seeking of mercy, remained in use even when changes were introduced as its use spread in 19th century Russia. This form of prayer was used as a training for contemplation by the greatest Russian mystic, Theophane the Recluse. His prayer was: "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner." He demonstrated by his own holy life, which was marked by wonderful mystical experience, that the fruitfulness of this method does not depend on the words used or on breathing techniques but rather consists in attention on the interior presence of Jesus in the soul, and the saying of the prayer in such a way as to make the mind humble itself and "descend into the heart", so that one finds a deep peace.
The fullness of this prayer is achieved when, through the spontaneously repeating of the words, the presence of the Lord Jesus is perceived as constantly in the heart of the believer. Then this prayer leads to a living experience of the condition described by St. Paul, "I live no longer I, but Christ in me" (Galatians 2: 20).
NO GREATER LOVE: by PAUL BEERY BSP
“The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they MADE KNOWN THE MESSAGE that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”
That sounds like a very good New Year’s resolution: MAKE KNOWN THE MESSAGE that God has come to earth, reflect on it in our hearts with Mary, and glorify and praise God for the privilege of having heard and seen Jesus our Savior. The shepherds had an idea that something majestic was happening, but while they were struck with awe at seeing the supernatural event unfolding before their eyes, they only witnessed the very beginning of the Savior’s appearance here on earth. They may have had the privilege of being personally present for a bright, shining moment, but then the Infant was gone, and there were only memories to comfort them.
We have seen the unfolding of the mystery from a great distance, but we have the comfort of being with Jesus every day. In exchange for the incredible excitement of a moment in time, we can daily receive the Body of Christ to sustain our personal temple of the Holy Spirit, adore the constant Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and hear the teaching of the Word of God to inspire and guide us back to our heavenly Father. Which is the better bargain? We should count our blessings. The shepherds were very fortunate, for people of simple faith believed their message, people who had the capacity to be amazed and filled with wonder. Simple times are no more. Simple faith is rare, as many people have been trained to have a cynical attitude towards everything supernatural and holy, making it much more difficult to penetrate the protective shell they build around themselves.
If God has graced us to seek holiness, we both rejoice in finding the pearl of great price, and lament out of love for our neighbors who are unable to grasp the “one thing necessary,” and struggle to find the Fullness of Life in Jesus Christ. Lamentations may be considered somewhat negative, but no one would lament unless they first had a genuine concern for the object of their complaint. The Old Testament is filled with the Lamentations of God Himself over the infidelity of His Chosen People. Being a jealous God, He not only laments, He allows the consequences of their actions to fall on the unfaithful. And lamentably, they fall on the faithful as well. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Forgive me for a personal lamentation, of a lifetime filled with wasted opportunities, but not yet lost.
It seems each of our lives is a microcosm of the great mystery of salvation. We seek, we love, we fall, we fail. We wander in the desert, build our own golden calf, see it crushed. Our resolve at times is feeble compared to the strength of our desire. We tire of falling and failing, facing the same consequences, for we’ve been there before. Wandering the minefields of life, is it any wonder we are blown off course by an unseen enemy who loves to lay traps, or even our own folly in failing to stay on the safe but narrow way? We can clearly see the pitfalls awaiting our fellow pilgrims, but in pointing them out, it seems our eyes are diverted just long enough to fall into the pit ourselves. It’s a hard lesson, humility. “O Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.”
As we waste time crawling along we look at those who have successfully run the race. It produces incentive or depression. They became a Saint in how many years? What on earth am I doing? It’s not very much by comparison, that’s for sure. Isn’t there a place for just tiny little saints, with a very small ladder enabling the feeble to take at least the first step? Aren’t there laws protecting the disabled? I thought I was here before at some point on the journey. It may have been numerous times. In fact, isn’t this the starting line? It’s a hard lesson, patience. “By your patience, you will save your souls.”
Why do I fail the God who loves me into existence? “I love you Jesus, my Love, with all my heart. I’m sorry for ever having offended You.” If we only knew the difference between what truly offends God and what we think offends God. There’s probably a large gap between the two, creating either license or scrupulosity at the extremes. Where does the truth lie? Do we really want to know? Do I really want to know what God thinks of me, a sinner, at this moment? It’s a hard lesson, begging for mercy. “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion blot out my offense. A humble, contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.” Ps. 51
How do we balance the reality of being both sinners and saints? We learn the lesson of humility, by pondering on our lowliness with Mary our Mother. Who would have thought that the Son of God would appear on earth as a helpless infant, rather than in grandeur as befits a King? Can we possibly imagine the humility of God Himself? Mary had no sin, a truly humbling affliction, but her humility came from her condition as a mere creature in the presence of her Creator. Even her Son could say, “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” How could Jesus be humble? He loved to call Himself the “Son of Man,” a new experience. True God, true man. If true man, then He truly experienced what it was like to be a mere earthbound creature. The Way, the Truth and the Life was both learning about worldliness, and teaching us how to transcend it. If Jesus and Mary who were without sin could be meek and humble of heart, then it is incumbent upon the inheritors of Original Sin to learn and live the virtue of humility.
St. Francis very plainly states what should be obvious to all the descendents of Adam and Eve. In his exhortation to the friars, Ch. 22 of the Rule of 1221, he says, “We must hate our lower nature with its vices and sins; by living a worldly life, it would deprive us of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and of eternal life, dragging us down with it into hell. By our own fault we are corrupt, wretched, strangers to all good, willing and eager only to do evil, as our Lord says in the Gospel (Mk 7,21). All these things come from within, from the heart of man, which make a man unclean. We have left the world now and all we have to do is to be careful to OBEY GOD’S WILL and PLEASE HIM.”
Our holy father knew humility. It drew him to the Truth, for humility is truth. Our Mother Mary magnified the Lord for looking on His lowly servant. He who did great things through her was Mighty, and holy was His Name. She gave glory to God for all that His lowly servant accomplished. My friends, if Mary, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast,” call’s herself God’s lowly servant, then we the lowlier, can imitate Mary, like the shepherds, who returned, “glorifying and praising God.”
Thanks be to God, the Way has been laid out for us. Life can be simple living in God’s will. Seek and find the Holy Family, make known the Message, reflect on it in the heart of Mary, and glorify and praise God for all we have heard and seen. That would be most pleasing to God, drawing down His Love on us .
by Janet Klasson BSP
“For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor. 1:17,18)
Do you ever feel foolish telling people that you are trying to live a penitential lifestyle? I don’t tell many people. First of all, our lifestyle is meant to be lived quietly, without fanfare, so we don’t make “announcements” about it. But from time to time it does come up. Almost invariably, the person I tell will get a funny look on his or her face, as if to say, “Why would you want to do that?”
It’s funny, but my answers always seem to come up short. I know in my heart why I want to follow this lifestyle, but there seem to be no words adequate to describe what it means to me to live the message of the cross. Whatever I say sounds like foolishness to the ears, even to mine. Perhaps that is God’s doing. He does not wish me to talk about it with the “wisdom of human eloquence.” In describing the life of the cross, human words ring flat and dull. Perhaps what He wants is to whisper the living call of the cross into the hearts he has chosen, as he did with you and me. What is foolishness to the ears becomes music to the hearts he has prepared.
St. Francis called himself “God’s fool”. I suppose that if I feel foolish living the penitential lifestyle, I can take comfort knowing that I am in the best of company.
God bless. Janet
FRANCISCAN SAINTS: Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio
A wonderful simplicity, humility and detachment were the distinguishing virtues
of this holy man. Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio was a Spaniard, born to poor farmers in the province of Galicia, Spain, in 1502. While he was yet a child, a contagious disorder desolated the place, and little Sebastian, being seized with it, was exposed in a ruined cabin, near which food was placed for him. Abandoned by men, they say he was saved by a wolf, which brought him to a family who adopted him.
The incorrupted body of Blessed Sebastian. He was 98 when he died.
He took service at an early age in a farm, but, after a few years, found his workplace full of danger to his purity for a wicked woman tried to trap him into sins of impurity. He was modest, handsome, and correct in his deportment. The crass elements of the crowd frequently ridiculed him for his piety and reserve. He next took a little cottage near San Lucar, and became a small farmer, but was meeting temptations again. To elude them, he sailed to America and landed at Vera Cruz in 1533.
He settled in Puebla de los Angeles, Mexico, and began again as a farm labourer. Then he launched a carting business. From carting he branched out into bull-training and road construction, and finally went into the business of making plows and wagons. He built the main road running between Zacatecas and Mexico City, and it is still in use today. He contributed much to the public welfare through his work of manufacturing plows and wagons, building roads through the forests and mountains, and transporting grain and other products to the cities.
Wealth now flowed in upon him, and many parents sought to gain him as a son-in-law, but he had chosen a life of chastity and austerity even though he was affluent. So, he lived like a poor man while he distributed his wealth to the needy. His manner of life was hard: a life of toil and self-denial, less comfortable than that of many who relied on his alms for support. He also instructed the Natives in his various skills. They appreciated his help, recognized his worth as a human being, and honoured his wisdom by consulting him about their problems.
While residing at Chapultepec, where he had taken a farm, he fell dangerously ill, and preparing to die, bequeathed all he had to a neighbouring convent of Dominicans. He recovered his health, and resumed his former way of life: but believing it prudent, at his advanced age, to have some, one near him, he married a poor, but virtuous girl, proposing, with her consent, to lead a life of perfect continence, as many holy couples have done. In this state he lived in great peace for about a year, when the early death of his wife left him again alone in the world. At the age of sixty-three he again married, but his second wife, who was greatly attached to him, being troubled one day at his prolonged absence, climbed a tree that stood by their door, to look down the road, when by some accident she fell, receiving injuries which caused her death.
Sebastian was 70 when his second wife died. Around that time, he suffered a severe illness. He recovered but again he saw in the illness a heavenly warning to prepare for death. Sebastian felt himself called to enter the religious state, and proceeded to Mexico, to consult his spiritual director, an Observantine Friar. By the advice of the latter, he gave all his property to a convent of Poor Clares, and joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Then he went to work for these Franciscan nuns at their convent.
This state did not, however, realize his desires: he wished to be a religious bound by vows. Sebastian decided that he was called to join the First Order of Franciscans. He was at last received by Father John de Bastidas, warden at Mexico, into the novitiate of the Observantine Franciscans in 1575. The friars welcomed this 72-year-old benefactor as a lay brother and his principal task was to go around begging food for his brothers and the poor they cared for. To everybody's surprise, he lived 26 years as a Franciscan.
He proved to be the humblest and most obedient of novices. His fervour and assiduity in performing the duties imposed upon him, soon won the esteem of his superiors, and after his profession in the following year, he was sent to Puebla, and made alms-questor for the convent. In this post he continued to the close of his life, except during a short period, when, on a charge of being a stupid, slovenly old man, he was deprived of it and sent back to the novitiate. His sanctity was, however, too great not to triumph over persecution. After having spent many years in this laborious career, obsessed by devils, worn by disease he was seized with a fatal malady, and, for the first time almost in his life, placed in a comfortable bed. His only grief was that stomach trouble prevented him from receiving Holy Communion. This must have been truly a trial!
As he drew close to death, however, a priest friar brought the Blessed Sacrament to his cell so that he might adore It. In his great joy he asked to be placed on the bare ground so as to give greater honor to his Eucharistic King.
He sank gradually into deeper illness, edifying all by his sanctity and desire to be with God, and expired on the 25th of February, 1600, at the age of 98. He was beatified on the 23d of February, 1789. His incorrupt body lies in glass tomb in a large chapel adjoining the Franciscan church in Mexico City.
After all, what is remarkable about Blessed Sebastian? He proved that true greatness is found in the quiet fidelity of a life entirely consecrated to the performance of God's Will. He never had useless or paralyzing preoccupation with self, anxiety or demoralizing fears. He simply and confidently concerned himself with the loving performance of God's Will as manifested in divine inspirations and in his spiritual director's advice. Holiness does not consist in great penances or extraordinary mortifications. It is not found in visions or ecstasies. It is not proved by remarkable achievements. Rather, it's achieved by an unswerving, humble and loving "Yes" to God's Will.
As Christians we must beware of being swallowed up and absorbed in the affairs of this world. Whatever we are, be it engineer, farmer or friar, we must strive to do our duty and to do it well. We must take care that we do not permit our work to come between us and Christ. If we find that our temporal affairs are interfering with our spiritual life, we should choose being less rich and prosperous in this world rather than that our souls should not prosper. This may require real self-denial, but it is the way of true separation from the world. We are to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).
Of course it is no easy thing to “come out from” the world. It requires a constant struggle and exertion, incessant conflict and self-denial. To come decidedly out from the ways of the world and be unmistakably separate requires a real determination. But if our heart is right everything else will be right in time. We should set before our minds every day as grand realities, which they are, the matter of our soul’s eternal welfare: God, Christ, heaven, hell, death, judgment to come and eternity. Let us remind ourselves that what we do not see is just as real as what we do see, and ten thousand times more important. Armed with this faith we will regard this world as a mere shadow compared with the reality of “the world to come.” We will disdain its praise or blame, its enmity or rewards. We shall never regret having lived a humble and unselfish life.
Submitted by Anna Ferroni—Turin, Italy
Mary, Mother of God
by Winnie Spencer-Dealy BSP
On January 1st we celebrate the Feast day of Mary, Mother of God. How right and fitting it is to place this day on the first of the year! Mary is celebrated as Mother of God and our Mother. We have much to learn from her.
We have made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and now the New Year is upon us. Let us take Mary to be our special guide this year, and remember her always. She is the perfect model of Christians, and the perfect prayer partner. We will not go wrong to call on her for assistance. As our Mother, she hears the cry of her children, and hastens to help them in their time of need. Just as she stuck by Jesus through His Passion, Death, and even Resurrection, so will she stick by us if we but ask. Jesus gave her to us when He gave her to John, "Behold your Mother." She became for us our spiritual mother, aiding us in our every necessity. What a storehouse of riches did Jesus open up! He knew that He would take her to Heaven to live with Him there, and that she would come to the aid of His chosen people. We must remember that we are that chosen people, and that He gave her to us, as well. What a perfect and divine plan our Lord has come up with!
What more can I say that has not already been said a thousand times by holy men and women more learned than I? It is enough to say what I have said thus far. Mary is our perfect model of holiness and chastity, and we would do well to take her as our own Mother this year. Remember that she is ever near us, hearing us, ready to help us when we call upon her. Let us not forget her assistance this year, and implore her to be near us. Near us when we work, when we play, and most especially, when we pray. Through Mary we will obtain all that we ask for, if we are asking for the right things--faith, love, hope, charity, patience, forgiveness, tenderness and piety. Surely she can not resist!
May Mary be our guide this year, and always.
THE ADMONITIONS OF ST. FRANCIS: X. Exterior Mortification
Many people blame the devil or their neighbor when they fall into sin or are offended. But that is not right. Everyone has his own enemy in his power and this enemy is his lower nature which leads him into sin. Blessed the religious who keeps this enemy a prisoner under his control and protects himself against it. As long as he does this no other enemy, visible or invisible, can harm him.
THE RULE AND STATUTES OF
THE BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF PENANCE OF ST. FRANCIS
CHAPTER II: ABSTINENCE
RULE: ARTICLE 6
All are to abstain from meat save on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, except on account of illness or weakness, for three days at blood-letting, in traveling, or on account of a specially high feast intervening, namely, the Nativity for three days, New Year’s, Epiphany, the Pasch of the Resurrection for three days, Assumption of the glorious Virgin Mary, the solemnity of All Saints and of St. Martin. On the other days, when there is no fasting, they may eat cheese and eggs. But when they are with religious in their convent homes, they have leave to eat what is served to them. And except for the feeble, the ailing, and those traveling, let them be content with dinner and supper. Let the healthy be temperate in eating and drinking.
STATUTES: ARTICLE 6
a. For penitents, all Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are days of abstinence (that is, meatless days) unless directed otherwise by a physician or spiritual director or confessor. Meat is allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
b. Abstinence will follow current Church regulations, which are listed in Appendix A.
c. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, penitents are to eat but two meals daily throughout the year unless advised otherwise by a physician or permitted by their spiritual director or confessor. A small meal or snack may be taken if needed at one other time during the day. Beverages may be taken at any time between meals.
d. Except for Sundays and Solemnities, between meal snacks of solid food should be avoided except for acts of charity or special occasions.
e. At all times, penitents should be temperate in eating and drinking.
f. In their own homes, penitents should attempt to prepare foods that other household members enjoy rather than satisfying themselves.
g. In order to be hospitable, penitents may eat what they prepare for guests, or what is placed before them if they are with others.
h. When eating with others in a group setting, the penitent should try to allow others to choose their foods first.
i. Travelers while in transit to their destinations and those who are ill, weak, pregnant, or breastfeeding are exempt from following the abstinence provisions of this Rule.
COMMENTARY: by Bruce Fahey BSP
In the area of food this article calls us to mortify our senses and to routinely and regularly deny ourselves the joy of eating meat at meals. It also call us to fast essentially every day of our lives except on the special days defined. In this way we are called to follow the Gospel more literally and to die to ourselves in our daily life. This is perhaps one of the most personally demanding sections of the Rule. It will affect us often, and in ways that we must relate to on a daily basis. We all eat every day.
It was most thoughtful of St. Francis to build into the Rule some exceptions which clearly give us some charitable and generous breaks in our fasting. Especially when we are with others we should realize that our fasting should be invisible to those around us. Our Lord admonished us with the words: “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matt. 6:17-18) These Statutes are designed to help us live this part of the Gospel generously.
Detail from "The Adoration of the Magi" (the holy three Kings adoring Baby Jesus)
painted by Gentile da Fabriano (1250-1318)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence (Italy)
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 support 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.
Sincerely yours in the love of Jesus Christ!
Bruce and Shelley Fahey BSP
Welcome to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance!
In the world, but not of it, for Christ!