Saint Francis and the First Christmas Creche: Part 1

It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed.

~ St. Bonaventure,  Life of St. Francis of Assisi

Shocking and morally intolerable

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved — policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation’s most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

Doing what is ours to do

Our Holy Father, St. Francis, reminded us, through his desire to recreate the scene of the Incarnation at Greccio, that we are ONE in our Lord. The question for each of us to consider throughout this season of anticipation is, what can we, as sisters and brothers to one another, do to rekindle the spark of the Spirit’s fire and enthusiasm within each of us and within our Fraternities so that we may open our hearts to hearing, healthing and healing one another so that together, as family, we can journey into the new year with open minds and open hearts to the direction of Him who has called us? May the Spirit of the living God grant us the grace to be available as Mary was so that we may respond to His call to rekindle the fire within us not only individually but fraternally, thereby doing what is ours to do in this time and in this place.

No room!

No room! The Creator of the universe finds no room in His own creation! The God of all creation is refused a welcome by those from Whom they received life! Almighty God is born in a hovel for animals, Whose throne is a manger and Whose adoring court are a humble couple and poor shepherds from the hillside who were tending sheep! What mystery of love! Here is a total emptying! How can we question that God understands our human condition? The ecstatic praise that St. Francis of Assisi once said when he reflected upon the Mystery of the Incarnation: O sublime humility, O humble sublimity! is the awe-filled acknowledgment and prayer we offer before the greatness of such emptying of Himself! It all began with Mary’s “Yes” to the Father’s request for her availability to allow God to be born in human history.

In making our formal and public professions

If I pause to think about it, such a declaration is enough to take my breath away. In consecrating ourselves “to service in His Kingdom,” we change our relationship to God’s infinite and eternal creation, which in itself is something that is always changing, always new, always becoming. We are no longer simply along for the ride, as it were. We can no longer live our lives as we have, focused solely on ourselves and our families and our careers and the countless irritations that make up modern life. In making our formal and public professions, we declare that Christ is the center of our lives, the balance point, the focus, the prime mover–our “All.” In consecrating our lives, we make Christ, as He is revealed in the gospels, the measure of all that we do.

A light to the world

For Francis and Clare, prayer is to lead to a renewal of the “Incarnation;” God is to “take on flesh” anew in one’s life through the action of the Holy Spirit, and the birth of God in one’s life should shine before others, as a light to the world.

~ Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer

To educate for growth

Catholic moral teaching is not a mere code of prescriptions and prohibitions. It is not something that the Church teaches merely to keep people obedient, doing violence to their freedom. Rather, Catholic morality is a response to the aspirations of the human heart for truth and goodness. As such, it offers guidelines that when followed will make these aspirations grow and become strong under the warm light of the Gospel. Catholic morality is not by nature oppressive: nor is it in principle conservative. It seeks to educate for growth. This is its true mission.

~ Servais Pinckaers, O.P., via Why I Am Catholic

Emptiness, stillness, silence

Discrimination regarding who or what we allow to have room in our minds, to preoccupy us, can only be achieved if we regularly empty our minds of our preoccupations. Emptiness, stillness, silence, each of these words is an attempt to pin-point the condition in which God is known. In a daring passage the author of the letter to the Philippians proposes Jesus as the model from whom we have to learn this self-emptying: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who, though he was God, did not cling on to his equality with God but emptied himself and took upon himself the form of a servant.”

~ Donald Nicholls, Holiness, via Heather King

Fear of suffering

What really hurts is not so much suffering itself as the fear of suffering. If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow. It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly, makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor. Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective, defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.

~ Fr. Jacques Philippe, Interior Freedom

In one’s example and deeds

Evangelical life focuses on what we are, not what we do. The goal of the life is to be a sister or brother to all, announcing the Good News in one’s example and deeds.

~ Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer

An inherent value in not acquiring

This is what we might call the missionary vocation of the Franciscan way of life. Emerging from a commitment to follow in “the teaching and footprints of Jesus Christ,” this is a disposition that orients the believer outward and toward others as opposed to inward and focused on the self. Like Jesus in the Gospels, Francis saw an inherent value in not acquiring the security and comfort afforded by the appropriation of property, resources, and status.

Prayer Request Update

Thank you so much for your prayers. My nephew’s surgery went as well as it possibly could. Please continue your prayers as he begins his recovery, continues his chemo, and awaits the biopsy results.

Attentive and present to all of life and creation

Our fraternities are clearly called to help the brothers and sisters live their faith in the world, helping them to understand and act on the social dimensions of the gospel in their everyday lives. Like Saint Francis, we are not only called to rebuild the church, we are called to be like our Incarnate God, who is attentive and present to all of life and creation.

~ Handbook for Animators of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), National JPIC Commission of the Secular Franciscan Order, USA

Prayer Request

Please keep my 18-year-old nephew Josh and his family in prayer today. He’s going in for cancer surgery this morning. Thank you. Pax et bonum.

May be living realities

As Secular Franciscans, we commit ourselves to live the Gospel according to Franciscan spirituality in our secular state. We are called to make our own contribution, inspired by the person and message of our Seraphic Father Francis, towards a world in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and peace and love may be living realities.

~ Handbook for Animators of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), National JPIC Commission of the Secular Franciscan Order, USA

Not just something we do

Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) is simply the Rule of the Secular Franciscan in action. Our Rule is based on the Gospels; JPIC is also based on the Gospels. It bubbles up from the Gospels. It is lived out from the Gospels. JPIC is not just something we do, it is who we are, as followers of Jesus in the way of Saint Francis of Assisi. It is an attitude that influences what we do and how we minister, with God, with ourselves, with other people and with creation.

~ Handbook for Animators of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), National JPIC Commission of the Secular Franciscan Order, USA

Masks

So much of life, particularly in our modern, hyper-busy, and technologically saturated world, tends to pull us away from the path toward discovering our true self, from the journey into God. We are told in big and little ways every day that we must construct our identities, supplement ourselves with products and services, look a certain way, speak a certain way, and be a certain way. What results from following that path is what Merton will call the “false self,” what he sometimes refers to as our “masks.”

The ordinary result of a prayerful spirit

Francis, through his prayerful relationship with Jesus, grew in his love for everyone. Like Jesus, Francis is willing to give his life for the sake of other people. This is the ordinary result of a prayerful spirit. It seeks the spirit of Jesus and is responsive to the Holy Spirit.

~ Lester Bach, OFM Cap, The Franciscan Journey: Embracing the Franciscan Vision

At God’s disposal

Day in and day out, both when convenient and inconvenient, in good times and in bad – the Professed Secular Franciscan is to place him/herself at God’s disposal.

~ Fr. Richard Trezza, O.F.M., “Profession and the Secular Franciscan: Theological and Liturgical Foundations” (FUN Manual)

When human activity proves powerless

It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. A personal relationship with God and an abandonment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism. An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defense of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?