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Stella Matutina » 2005 » May, the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis blog
The Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis
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May 31, 2005

They kick even the goad…

Filed under: Morning Star — Bruce @ 8:42 pm

Councilors interpreting everywhere,
ever ready to lighten the load,
blocking his disciplines in favor of flight,
their kicks moving even the goad.

These days there are councilors of the Franciscan life everywhere. With the cancelation of the original Rules everyone became a spiritual director it seems. Unfortunately, it seems there is no common path to spirituality anymore, even of a Saint, as in the days of the original Rules. Any councilor anywhere can say what they please on how to live a holy life using their own interpretation, not the writings of the Saint, to guide them. How many are these people? There are as many as their are voices, and the voices all sound different except on one count. They all counsel that we need not live the original Rules as they are written.

Once when I spoke with a spiritual director of a Franciscan Third Order about living a life of fasting and abstinence he cautioned against it because it clearly would not be what St. Francis would advise. Rather than suggesting a deep life of prayer and fasting this gentleman of God stated that St. Francis would demand we live a healthy lifestyle, for instance, give up fast foods and exercise more. And since this person did spiritual direction one can only assume that is the advice he gave his directees.

These days there is rarely support to live a life of penance or prayer on any rigorous basis. One is more likely to hear the disciplines of fasting, mortification, abstinence, prayer and simplicity as stated in the original Rules diminished purely because they were written in a different time and for supposedly different people. Accordingly, if one asks for permission to live such an ascetical life according to the original Rule of a Saint they will find themselves blocked by the advice they are given. And if a person objects on any formal basis they will find that the directives they receive will become stern in favor of flight from the intentions of the original Rules: “if you wish to live that way you must leave the Order! St. Paul, when he was persecuting the Jewish Christians, heard the Lord say: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.”(Acts 26:14) Yet, in these days, councilors everywhere are kicking the goads, i.e. the tenets of the original Rules, out of the way, in favor of giving their own advice.

May 23, 2005

Still our modern leaders think!

Filed under: Morning Star — Bruce @ 2:24 pm

Years near forty times a score,
since he walked the earth,
still our modern leaders think,
without his words we near rebirth.

St. Francis is a truly great Saint! He walked the earth over 800 years ago, and for most of those 800 years no one messed with his message. His message was considered sacred and instilled in the life of the Church by action and commitment without alteration.

Still today St. Francis is recognized as a great spiritual leader by people all around, many of whom are not even Catholic, and none of whom have ever met him! How much greater it must have been to see him in action. To meet him when he was alive. And it was on that basis that he founded his three Orders. Only at the end of last century were major changes made to the Franciscan Rules. Then again in the 20 century and especially he late 1970’s when some of the Rules of the Orders were again reworked removing them further in content from their origins.

What was in the minds of modern leaders who have allowed his Orders of today, especially the secular Order, to go a different way. To move away from the disciplines of the lifestyle he gave us. Why would anyone allow any distraction from what the Saint gave us knowing that to be done it would have to be done by someone who is living, who has not been canonized as a Saint? How could the changes be called “Franciscan”?? Yet, that is what happened, and that is what is defended today as the basis of the rebirth of the Franciscan movement, which for the most part is now in decline. The Stella Matutina movement encourages all who love St. Francis to return to the original lifestyles he gave us. The First Rules of His Orders.

May 18, 2005

We see not what he did say…

Filed under: Morning Star — Bruce @ 3:13 pm

You have taken St. Francis our shining star ,
who gave Your rules for our way,
his perfection was to guide our correction,
now we see not what he did say.

What can we say? St. Francis was with us a short while on earth. Born in 1181 he died in 1226. He was 45. Like every man he was taken from us to his home in heaven but while he was here he was a shining star. It is said that St. Francis was the most like Christ of any Saint. Once a brother had a vision of Christ walking along. He left footprints and behind him came a host of other Saints who tried to walk in the Lord’s exact footsteps but could not. No matter how they tried they could not exactly step in the footprints the Lord made. Then came St. Francis along the way and he glibly stepped into the Lord’s footprints and followed them perfectly. He was and is a shining star on the path to spiritual perfection.

It is well documented that he started three Orders. One for priests, the First Order. One for holy ladies, sisters, the Second Order, of which St. Clare was the first head. Finally, and lastly, by pressure of the people of his time, he started a Third Order, for all of the Faithful and most certainly the laity, as their way to salvation. This is the core Rule of the Stella Matutina movement and Association of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis. Yet his Rules he always maintained were not from himself but from the Lord, and the Lord confirmed this at Rieti when St. Francis was challenged about making the Rule for the First Order harsher. He spoke to the Lord, not the complaining friars, and the Lord answered him from heaven confirming to all present that the Rules of St. Francis came from Him, not St. Francis.

Remarkable as this was, and it had to have been an awesome miracle, this marvelous message was not given for St. Francis. Like the Rules themselves the message was given for his followers. For those who would hear the message, then, or now, and be searching for spiritual truth. For us. So that message of the Lord is a message to this age. All who would love St. Francis. All who would desire to follow in His way. For all time. It was a seal of approval. Such followers of St. Francis would want to know that the way they were following, i.e. the Rule St. Francis gave us, bore the stamp of perfection and approval of the Lord. What better way for us to know it than for the Lord to confirm that the ways of life that St. Francis gave us had not only His approval, but were of His creation! Ways of perfection, given by the Lord through St. Francis, to guide us in our conversions.

Unfortunately, most Franciscans today, especially, it seems, those in the institutions dedicated to St. Francis, do not follow the unaltered original Rules of St. Francis. For various reasons, which generally relate better to a spirit of laxity than perfection, the Franciscans today have pretty much gone their own way. They just don’t ‘get it’! Well intentioned as they may be, they have written, and often already rewritten by now, the Rules that St. Francis gave us. They have changed their tone and tempered their fire. It isn’t that those who follow the revised modern Rules do nothing. They live their modern Rule. The problem is that many of these Rules factually require little other than a regular meeting. Some of these Rules do not even mention the word fasting. Some scarcely mention prayer. Yet prayer and fasting were at the core of the life of St. Francis himself, not to mention his other ladies: poverty, simplicity, and obedience.

So, blessed are all who strive to live the Rules that St. Francis himself gave; without a gloss, without a gloss. That is what the Lord asked at Rieti, and if we don’t want to do that then He said we should just leave the Order. Leave the lifestyle. Go our way.

Blessed be the Lord, and all who follow Him in the footsteps of St. Francis.

May 9, 2005

Your Goodness, Power, and Your Might

Filed under: Morning Star — Bruce @ 11:44 am

Your Goodness, Power, and Your Might,
light Wisdom always there,
Your Glory, Love, and Your Light,
show a cross we must bear .

God is always with us in His great Goodness, and He looks out for us all. It has always been so. He puts up with our great weaknesses, and “he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Mt. 5:45) It should always be our desire therefore, like St. Francis, to be not only among the just, but exceptional in our commitment and work for the Lord. The Lord gives us the Power to do wonderful things for love of Him, and in these things we should always seek to be holy, and extra-ordinary. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little ‘extra’. As Franciscans that extra is a deep dedication to the disciplines that St. Francis called us to exercise. To the elements of the Rules he gave us. To committed prayer, mortification, and simplicity in a spirit of poverty.

Mary once told the whole world that ‘you have no idea how powerful God is.” Imagine that. No idea! I can come up with some pretty hefty ideas of the infinite might of Almighty God but Mary says my definition would still fall short! We rest in the Might of God. We hope in it as we saw it in the life of Jesus, and in his servants, the Saints. God makes all things possible in His Might. Blessed be the Lord! We for our part must be faithful, and put some energy into our response to Him. That is the little extra again. Extra energy and commitment to God.

And in this there is great Wisdom. God is pure Wisdom, and all who abide in God and seek the things of God first are wise! As the Lord said: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mt. 10:16) To be wise we must seek Wisdom, and if we ask for Wisdom God will give it. “But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. ” (Jms 1:5) To follow St. Francis we need Wisdom, as he is an example to all on how to live for the Lord.

And yet, God in His Wisdom imposes crosses on us. In this way he tests us, “For whom the LORD loves he reproves, and he chastises the son he favors.” (Prov. 3:12) So St. Francis was not concerned about being tested. He would more likely have been concerned if he were not tested. And many of these crosses, most in fact, are often things we don’t expect, or things that don’t facilitate and simplify our journeys through life. As Franciscans the greatest cross we see today is the wholesale tendency among followers of St. Francis to withdraw from what he gave us as lifestyles in his original Rules. The Rule of the Stella Matutina movement, and now of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis, is the original Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis, which has been abrogated by most modern Franciscans. All that is needed to live this movement is to accept this cross and try to live the life St. Francis gave us himself. We will be opposed. We will have a cross to carry, but how sweet it is to follow what St. Francis gave us himself, and to know we are following a Saint.

May 7, 2005

Love and Praise

Filed under: Morning Star — Bruce @ 9:15 am

Praise to you Most High God,
all creation You have made,
Your Providence cares for us,
enduring Love always stayed.

All praise, all glory, all honor, all blessing to Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is good, all good, the supreme good!

St. Francis loved and praised God constantly. It was his sole purpose in life after his conversion. To do all things for God, in God, through God. He did nothing that he did not give to God, and always in full consecration to the most holy Mother of God, Mary. In this there is an example for all who love St. Francis, and a tremendous challenge. The challenge to remain constantly aware of God, whatever we are doing in our day, or whereever we are at, and in this awareness to praise and love Him always and at all times. What makes it easy is creation, for in His creation we can see him all the time and because of that have a great accountability. No one can escape it.

We are rational creatures, which means we can reason and think. We can see with our eyes, and sense with our senses, the world around us. We know nothing like this world could ‘just happen’. It is inate in our nature, and part of God’s gift to us, to know that He exists and created all things. We cannot deny the reality of creation. We live in it, we breath it, we work in it, and we are part of it. We look in the mirror often and each time see the greatest of God’s creation, ourselves. We know that God has made us all. St. Francis saluted creation at every step. He recognized his brotherhood with all creation, even inanimate objects. The sun was Brother Sun. The moon was Sister Moon. The wolf was Brother Wolf. He was one with everything around him, but it was not his focus. His focus was on God, and he celeberated Him in all that He made. Like him we must do the same. We may work in our gardens, but when we do we should hold the creator of all that we put in that garden in awe.

And there is more. God’s incredible Providence. That word means one thing in the sense of being Franciscan in spirit. “The care, guardianship, and direction exercised by God.” “This is a message for all people. As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.” (Lk. 12: 29-31) We must trust in God, but even if we don’t, He cares for us as He made us, and He loves us even if we don’t love Him.

And it is that love, that incredible, indestructible, enduring, unconditional love, that God has for us that should be our constant joy. We should stand in awe of it, but we should rejoice in it and praise and thank God always for it in complete confidence and joy. What have we done to deserve it? Nothing! It is his gift to us. He loves what he created, or He would not have created it, for He is in complete control and does nothing without cause or reason. His will is supreme and perfect power. As He wills so it is! He is who is! We are they who are not, that is nothing. We owe it to God to be always grateful to Him for all things. No matter what our condition. No matter what our problems, God’s love is there for us. It is enduring. It is a purifying. It is fire; the fire of life. God is love and His love is life and he calls us to eternal life in eternal love, with him and all others, and without love we would all tend toward destruction and evil for evil came into the world through men but love through God, and in person in Jesus Christ our Lord.

So heed well all. St. Francis loved the enduring God, and his followers must all do the same, and the love of God is a verb. It calls us to love and serve others, to forgive and not worry about being forgiven, to give all we have away in at least our hearts so as to open them to God alone, and to care for each other however we can. We are called to be like God in this. We are called to love with reckless abandon, every soul, and every thing, He made. To show a love that is enduring. To make light of ourselves for the good of others, and for the good of ourselves. Blessed are they who think little of themselves but much of others. We need to become love. Enduring, indestructible, unconditional, incredible love. The love of God moves within us, and we move within Him, if we but love Him and seek to be His servants as St. Francis was. The Rule St. Francis gave us, the Rule of 1221, helps us to become this love. To pray, deny ourselves, and take up our cross daily. In this we become disciples of Christ, and all that God wants for us, and to accomplish through us, will happen, for He will never abandon His own.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)