The purpose of this blog is to share the montly formation talks given by the professed members of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina OFS Fraternity with our fellow Franciscans and those who love Saint Francis of Assisi.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections on the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order Part 1

......only those who have stripped themselves and taken on a profoundly human relationship with Christ become followers of Francis and receivers of his prayer of protection.  

Prologue
Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance
Chapter 1
Concerning Those Who Do Penance

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because "the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them" (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make "his home and dwelling among them" (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill "the will of the Father who is in heaven" (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

"Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom" (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

In the spirit that I have previously outlined, let me make a few initial points regarding the Prologue of the Rule of the OFS.  First, this is the authoritative source from which comes our awkward charism: namely third order member’s of Francis motley crew.  This is his letter to us who so desire to live his Gospel life but are bound by our states in life to live it in an equally radical yet different manner.  We are only followers of Francis, and therefore addressees of this letter, if we correspond to the traits laid out in the first paragraph:  Love God totally, Love neighbor, Hate the body or flesh of sin and attachment to this world, receive the Eucharist, and do penance.  These are the prerequisites of our relationship and discipleship to Francis and His Christ
Even before we can follow Francis, we must be willing to follow Christ.  Francis is about Jesus.  We must follow Christ’s command and example and love.  We must be one with Him in the Eucharist.  We must turn from sin and repent.  We must mortify ourselves with discipline and offer sacrifices of love through a life of penance.  In doing this we die.  In doing this we are stripped as Francis was.  Necessary to following Francis is being stripped with him before the bishop.  Then and only then can we look to God as our Father.  Only by these five traits does the Holy Spirit come to dwell in our hearts, do we becomes sons of the Father, and kindred of Christ. 
Notice how much family language is used in these paragraphs.  Our starting principle is a real relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  A relationship that is profoundly human.  We carry Him, We become pregnant with Him, We are born of Him.  Francis uses human terms because the God he loves became Human.  The Newness of our Franciscan vocations must be Christ-centered and human.  We must live our radical detachment or “stripping” and the radical gift of relying on the Father.  We must look and find Christ in our human relationships and express our love for Him in our human relationships.  Then and only then, do we fall under the protective tunic of Francis, under his paternal blessing. 
At his death, Francis blessed his followers.  At the end of the letter to those who do penance, only those who have stripped themselves and taken on a profoundly human relationship with Christ become followers of Francis and receivers of his prayer of protection.  

Father Adam Streitenberger, OFS

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reflections on The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order in the New Evangelization

Something new is happening in the Church.  One might say there is always something new happening in the Church, which might rightly remind us of what Qoheleth says—that there is nothing new.   There is always something new because the Holy Spirit is always and forever coming down on the Church as at Pentecost.  The Son is always and forever coming among us in the world.  Christ is always and forever dying for us and rising to new life.   The Father is always and forever pouring forth His love on His Beloved Son.  It is because of these Mysteries, which we experience in the Eucharist, that there is always and forever something new in the Church. 

If the Secular Franciscan charism is lived boldly with fidelity to Christ and His Church, we will be at the vanguard of this newness in the life of the Church.  

We might say that there is nothing new in the history of the Church.  Similar patterns of falling from and returning to the Lord unfold.  But every experience of the Lord’s grace is something radically new.  I say this all because I really do believe the Lord is doing something new in the Church.  Beginning with the late 1800’s, God has been moving the Church in a new and vibrant direction.  I believe Vatican II, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI were significant instruments in that new working.  We might call this newness, the New Evangelization.   I also believe that Pope Francis is also a tool of the Lord for something new.  Newness is not discontinuity.  Newness is fully living what has been received by the Church from Christ.  Newness is the fresh experience of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Our Franciscan vocation as members of the Secular Franciscan Order must be caught up in this newness.  We risk the danger of be irrelevant or an institutional obstacle to the unfolding of the Church’s newness.  In this spirit, I intend to reflect on the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order in these series of articles.  It is my firm conviction that if the Secular Franciscan charism is lived boldly with fidelity to Christ and His Church, we will be at the vanguard of this newness in the life of the Church.  

Father Adam Streitenberger, OFS

Saturday, February 16, 2013

FORGIVENESS IS THE HEART


Before we begin, let us pray. (pause) ―Most High, Glorious God, cast Your light into the darkness of my heart, and grant me a right faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may know and do Your holy and true command."
1

Jesus said to His disciples: ’In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This is how you are to pray: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. If you forgive others their transgressions, Your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions
.’ (Matthew 6:7-15)


In this passage, Jesus gives us perhaps the most prayed words in Christianity – the Lord’s Prayer. We talk about this prayer a lot, but we all know that there is one part of this prayer that is harder than all the rest
forgive us as we forgive others.

 But forgiveness is the heart of this prayer. Forgiveness is the heart of our faith. Forgiveness is the heart of Francis, and it is of necessity, the heart of our fraternity – the very center of our life together as brothers and sisters. If we want our fraternity to flourish, to grow, to be a place of prayer and love – it must have forgiveness at the core. In fact, this key Franciscan characteristic is just what we need to truly be free to love ourselves and others.

But what exactly is forgiveness? Perhaps the simplest definition comes from Mohandas Gandhi: ―
Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling or emotion, which we make through a decision of our own will, motivated by obedience to God and his command to forgive. ―Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13) We forgive by faith.

Forgiveness goes against our fallen nature, which causes us to feel we cannot or will not forgive. We need to trust that once we choose to forgive, God will do the work in us that needs to be done us that the forgiveness will be complete. He will complete the work in His time; it is our job to persevere and continue to forgive, by faith, until the work is done in our hearts. But how will we know when that work is done?

Corrie Ten Boon, a Christian woman who survived a Nazi concentration camp tells us: ―Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to realize the prisoner was you. Forgiveness takes away the anger, the bitterness, and the ill-will which can be so corrosive to our souls. But how do we go about forgiving someone?

Prayer is one of the best ways to break down the wall of un-forgiveness in the heart. When you begin to pray for a person who has wronged you, God begins to give you new eyes with which to see that person, and a new heart to care for that person. See that person as God sees them, and realize that they are precious to the Lord, and Our Savior died for them, as He died for you. You may also see yourself as in need of forgiveness, guilty of sin and failure as well. If God does not withhold His forgiveness from you, why should you withhold forgiveness from others?

Forgiveness is not a one-time choice; it is a whole way of life. As L. Gregory Jones, professor of theology and dean of the Duke Divinity School, said, ―
Forgiveness involves us in a whole way of life that is shaped by an ever-deepening friendship with God and with other people. The central goal of this practice is to reconcile, to restore communion – with God, with one another, and with the whole creation."

Our Seraphic Father Francis wrote the following to a Provincial Minister who was having problems with his brothers, and who wanted to resign and retire to a hermitage rather than continue in his post: "…there should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, however much he may have possibly sinned who, after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not to seek mercy, you should ask him if he wants mercy. And if he should sin thereafter a thousand times before your very eyes, love him more than me so that you may draw him back to the Lord. Always be merciful to brothers such as these."

But why did Our Father Francis advocate such radical forgiveness? Francis knew what Jesus knew – that forgiveness is liberating. It can free us from anger; it can free us from the need to change others; it can free us from the dissatisfaction with the way things are and free us to be open to the presence of God even in the midst of difficulty. Forgiveness is joyful as well. It is the freedom to be the person that God has created each of us to be – an image and a likeness of the unconditional love that God has for each of us, unimpeded by the faults and failing of ourselves and of one another.

Forgiveness is the heart of the Lord’s Prayer and the heart of who we are as Christians, and as followers of Francis, who followed in the footsteps of Jesus. We forgive out of obedience to the Lord. It is a choice, a decision we make, However, as we do this forgiving, we discover the command is in place for our own good, and we receive the reward of our forgiveness—peace, joy, and freedom, and we discover our place in community as a forgiving and forgiven people.

From a Formation Talk given by Patricia Johnson, OFS
February 2010

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Meditation for Sunday, October 21st, 2012

In this month of October in which we have celebrated and marked October fourth as  the Feast of Our Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi, I think it would be beneficial for us to look at two other spiritual hallmarks of this month and how they may relate to our life as Secular Franciscans and members of the great Franciscan Family.
The first of these is the observance of October as the Month of the Rosary. I would like to take a moment and briefly explain the origin of this devotion, specifically the Feast our Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th.  This feast dates to 1571 when Pius V attributed the defeat of the Turkish fleet to prayer made by the Rosary confraternities of Rome and elsewhere holding processions for just that purpose. This defeat spared continental Europe from the invasion of the Muslim hordes.  At first this feast was observed only in Spain but was later extended to the entire church by Pope Clement XI. It is through this feast that the month of October has come to be known as the Month of the Rosary.
In the month of October both St. Francis and the Rosary, along with our Blessed Mother, are honored. This is truly fitting and proper since St. Francis held the Mother of Our Lord in great esteem. As Article 9 of the Rule states, "The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to his every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently"
And the Constitutions in Article 16.1 & 2 go on to say, “Mary is the model of fruitful and faithful love for the entire ecclesial community. Secular Franciscans and their fraternities should seek to live the experience of Francis, who made the Virgin the guide of his activity. With her, like the disciples at Pentecost, they should welcome the Spirit to create a community of love.
The role that Mary plays to us as Franciscans is really quite simple
      Mary always leads us to her Son
      She continuously points to Jesus
      Indeed Mary brings us to Jesus
      Mary never separates herself from her Son
      Mary says “yes” to both happiness and sorrow
      Mary trusts Our Father, although she might not understand all the mysteries of His Will.
So, it is most truly most appropriate that during  this month in which we Franciscans recall the life and ministry of our Seraphic Father, Francis that we also honor the Mother of Lord who teaches us to follow the humble way of her Son whom St. Francis strove to follow with every fiber of his being. And it is even more of a blessing that Our Lady of Rosary leads us through that most wonderful devotion to a richer and fuller understanding of the life and ministry of her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The second hallmark of this month of October is of more recent origin.  The tradition of Respect Life Month is now in its 41st year.
In its statement for Respect Life Month the USCCB states: The theme of this year's Respect Life Program is one often expressed by Pope Benedict XVI: "Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty." He reiterated this insight during his recent visit to Lebanon:
The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God. … The grandeur and the raison d'ĂȘtre of each person are found in God alone. The unconditional acknowledgement of the dignity of every human being, of each one of us, and of the sacredness of human life, is linked to the responsibility which we all have before God. We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of … the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.
St. Francis would have understood our Holy Father’s words. Brother Bonaventure said of Francis in his Major Life of St. Francis, "Francis sought occasion to love God in everything. He delighted in all the works of God's hands and from the vision of joy on earth his mind soared aloft to the life-giving source and cause of all. In everything beautiful, he saw him who is beauty itself, and he followed his Beloved everywhere by his likeness imprinted on creation; of all creation he made a ladder by which he might mount up and embrace him who is all-desirable. By the power of his extraordinary faith he tasted the Goodness which is the source of all in each and every created thing, as in so many rivulets. He seemed to perceive a divine harmony in the interplay of powers and faculties given by God to his creatures and like the prophet David he exhorted them all to praise God." Bonaventure also wrote in his Minor Life of St. Francis, "His attitude towards creation was simple and direct, as simple as the gaze of a dove; as he considered the universe, in his pure, spiritual vision, he referred every created thing to the Creator of all. He saw God in everything, and loved and praised him in all creation. By God's generosity and goodness, he possessed God in everything and everything in God. The realization that everything comes from the same source made him call all created things -- no matter how insignificant -- his brothers and sisters, because they had the same origins as he."
How could the simple, poor man of Assisi have done anything but respect human life in all of its stages from conception to natural death.  How could he have not loved each and every one of his brothers and sisters who were created in the image of his beloved God.
Francis who gladly and with profound love embraced Lady Poverty would not have understood a society that placed “creature comforts” above the life of the human creature itself, created in the likeness and image of God. A being sharing the image of the second person of the Trinity, Jesus our Lord and brother, who offered himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our salvation.
I understand that budgets and economy and education are important things. It seems to me, however, that these pale in comparison with the right to live – whether it is for an infant to be able to take his first mewling breath or a grandmother who is nearing the end of her days to take her last breath on her own terms without being rushed by unnecessary drugs, medical procedures or lack of appropriate treatment.
No, Francis I believe would find this a very odd world. A society that had gone even farther astray than the world of the twelfth century in which he walked. As a part of the great family of Franciscans spanning more than eight centuries I would ask that each of us stop and take a moment to reflect on what God may be calling us to in this month of October. 
I would suggest that each and every one of us, in this month of October – this month of Francis, our Blessed Mother, of respect for Human Life – ought to be offering our prayers, our Crowns, our Rosaries, our Novenas, our Communions, our penances, our fasting that our society may come to see and understand and believe and act on the importance of human life – all human life – from conception to natural death and that like our Seraphic Father Francis, may see in all created persons the face of the Creator.


By Brother Maximilian John, OFS (David Homan)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In Times Such as These



          As we all know we have been facing a time of degenerating values and morality in our country: a culture of entitlement, redefinition of marriage, family breakdown, politically correct speech, contempt for chastity, a record low birth rate, and destruction of infants.



 
 
   The once subtle and hidden spiteful stabs at the Church for Her unfailing adherence to the Gospel of Our Lord have become vicious and open persecution by our society and our own Government.  With the disappointment of the recent elections the dimly lit light of hope most of us had has given way to the darkness of the catacombs and the hateful jeering sounds of the crowd in the coliseum.  The Lions are hungry.  We are preparing for battle.  We know what lies ahead for all of those who live the Gospel life in times like this.

          It is with this in mind that I wish to turn us to reflect for a moment on the story of Esther.  We’ve all heard her story.  Perhaps we remember it from our youth, encountered it in the office of readings, or perhaps we’ve meditated upon it during our daily Holy Hour.  Or like me, seen the Veggie Tale version.    The story of Esther has the makings of a Hallmark Classic Movie.  Beautiful young woman is orphaned and taken in by her Uncle Mordecai a Jew in the Kings court.  As luck would have it the King has to choose a new bride and Mordecai uses his influence to get Esther selected. Esther becomes favored by the King who would refuse her nothing.  Esther has gone from rags to riches and is able to help her Uncle Mordecai if needed.  
         Enter our villain Haman the Prime Minister who hates all Jews especially Mordecai.  Haman congers up a plots to kill all the Jews and Mordecai finds out.  Of course he sends word to his niece Esther who quickly sends word back to her uncle letting him know that she cannot intercede with the King.  Why?  Because anyone who enters the King’s court without being summoned would suffer the automatic penalty of death and she has not been summoned by the King for thirty days.  For Esther the cost was too high.   She did not stand to just loose her material possessions or her status as Queen, she would lose her life. 
          Upon hearing of Esther’s resistance Mordecai answers her reminding her of God’s Providence in her life.  “Do not imagine that because you are in the king’s palace, you alone of all the Jews will escape.  Even if you now remain silent, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another source:  but you and your father’s house will perish.  Who knows but that it was for a time like this that you obtained the royal dignity?”  Esther has a choice to make.  God’s Providence has brought her to this point.  But God now asks her through the request of Mordecai to risk everything to give her all in the Present Moment which she does.  And because Esther gives up her will in-spite of the cost, her people are saved, and Evil Old Haman gets his just reward.  A happy ending!

          My friends whether it is God’s permitting Will or His Ordaining Will the reality facing us in this present moment is God’s Will for us and the Church! We need to let go of what was in the past... what could have been and what will be in the future.  What we have is now.  Here in this present moment.   It is what we do with this present moment that will make the difference.  God would never allow anything that would not in the end be for our own Good and this can be applied to any part of our life.  Holiness is conforming your will to God’s Will.  So give up your will.  Why would we ask for any other reality than that which God has given us especially in this present moment?  Think of how miserable we can make ourselves if we focus on the way we wish things would be rather than the way things are.  This is the opportunity that God has given us to grow in holiness.   Why is the impending persecution or any undesirable thing that happens in our lives a cause for distress?  Why should we let it destroy our peace? 

          Saint Maximillian Kolbe had peace even in the face of being arrested.  He tells the Friars with him:
“Courage, my sons, Don't you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.”
          Each day as we renew our consecration to Our Lady we place our Fraternity and ourselves in her Immaculate Heart.  Remember the words she spoke to Juan Diego:
"Hear and let it penetrate into your heart, my dear little son; let nothing discourage you, nothing depress you. Let nothing alter your heart or your countenance. Also, do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else that you need?"
We have no reason to fear or to lose our peace.  Holy Father Francis said “The true peacemakers are those who preserve peace of mind and body for love of our Lord Jesus Christ, despite what they suffer in the world.”  So we face a time of peril:

It is times such as this that we are forced out of our complacency.  In times such as this that we can no longer drink from the cup of mediocrity.  It is in times such as this that we are called to perfect heroic virtue.  It is times such as this……that the Holy Spirit raises great Saints in the Church.  It is in times such as this that we face not a martyrdom of blood but a white martyrdom that comes when the desire for human respect dies and true humility remains.  And we should praise God for the opportunity.  Praise God for the opportunity to die to ourselves. Praise God for the opportunity to hide in the Catacombs.  Praise God for the opportunity to face the Lions.  True Joy comes from accepting the Will of God in this Present Moment.
I once read that once all the blood drains from a body that the body then begins to drain water.  He shed every drop of blood for you.  Look at the wound in His precious side.  How could you deny Him anything?

          Like Esther the cost is high.  Like Esther, we will not escape the persecution that lies ahead, we must stand firm and remember who we are and why we are here.  Like Esther we have a choice to sit passively or stand and fight.  Father Strietenberger said, “The Lord today wants our complete selves….our will and our all.  He wants us to give it to him generously and recklessly.  It is Christ himself who teaches us to give our all as he died on the Cross for us and gave us his life in the Eucharist.” 

Remember Brothers and Sisters, We are the soldiers of Church Militant armed with the Charism handed to us by our Seraphic Father.  In our own fraternity we are prepared for battle in living the Particular Constitutions given to us by our Spiritual Director Fr. Streitenberger.  We have our Total Consecration to Our Lady as our breastplate.  It is in times such as this that We must stand in defense of the Gospel, we must stand in defense of Holy Mother Church,  and we must do so with the intention of bringing many souls to Christ. 
          In each moment of Salvation History the Lord raises in the Church exactly what she needs just as The Lord raised Saint Francis in 1208 to repair his Church.   As the impending persecution looms over our heads, as we watch as the moral fiber of society decay, as we find ourselves surrounded by indifference to the Gospel, and the new religion of relativism…. We must ask ourselves could it be for a time such as this that God has brought us to the Secular Franciscan Order? 

Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle!

Maggie Wright, OFS
(talk given November 2012)

The Fraternity as Community



When our Father Francis began his quest with his “little brothers”, in love with Lady Poverty, setting out to rebuild the Church, he did not know that the movement he began would extend through the centuries and around the world. The Franciscan movement might have become a mere blessed footnote in Church history, but for the men, women, and children who have followed him throughout the ages and in all corners of the globe. 

For that reason we are called to fraternity as community. The word “fraternity” does not refer merely to an organization of men. It means that Jesus is our brother, and we are called to be brothers and sisters to Jesus with Francis and his other followers.

The fraternity gives us many advantages in our life:

(1) Fraternity keeps us from becoming self-centered.
(2) Fraternity creates the place where apostolic work in the world is fostered.
(3) Fraternity gives us strength where we are weak. 

(4) Fraternity gives us opportunities to love others with all their goodness as well as their flaws and irritating ways. And they can do the same for us.
(5) Fraternity provides an intimate spiritual family within “family” of the Church, where we can grow in holiness.

Under the Leonine rule, the Secular Franciscan Order had “isolated” members. These members were Franciscans who followed the way of Francis on their own without the benefit of fraternity. Today, however, we are returning to Francis’ original plan – we go the Franciscan way together, not as individuals on private journeys. 

Our Rule devotes an entire chapter (Chapter 3) to “Life in Fraternity.” Indeed, the local fraternity is “the basic unit of the Whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love.” (Rule 22)  But do we attend our gatherings as merely another”meeting” to go to? Or, perhaps as a place where we sit passively and are spiritually “fed,” like needy children?
No. In the General Constitutions of the OFS (Article 30), we are reminded that:

“(1) The brothers and sisters are co-responsible for the life of the fraternity to which they belong….” And

“(2) The sense of co-responsibility of the members required personal presence, witness, prayer, and active collaboration, in accordance with each one’s means and possible obligations for the animation of the fraternity.”

In fraternity, we are reminded of our responsibility to ourselves and each other, as well as our duty to cultivate and practice our Franciscan charism.
Meeting regularly gives us a chance to work together. Individuals grow in friendship in the Lord and each other as they pray together, work together, motivate each other, and share their faith journeys.  The fraternity is a sanctuary of joy where laughter and humor lightens one’s burdens, and gives us the opportunity to lift up our brothers and sisters. The fraternity provides a place to resolve disagreements peacefully. The fraternity is a place to learn to forgive ourselves and others as we begin, again and again, to follow Jesus in the footsteps of Francis and Clare.

Finally, let us end our formation together in prayer: 

“Lord, sometimes the temptation to strike out on my own is very strong. I can’t see how my present life, with my family, or my brothers and sisters in community, is allowing me to grow. Everyone around me seems only a distraction or a burden, and I wish I could just leave everything and everyone and be free.
But that is only a temptation, most of the time, Lord. For I find You in my commitments and responsibilities, my loves and friendships, not in fleeing them. And in finding You, I find myself. You are where I am, not somewhere else. Lord Jesus, help me to discover You where I am. Amen.”

 Pax et bonum (Peace and all good),

Pat Johnson, OFS