The Rule, Article 4

Friday, April 30, 2010


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)

There are many who, while insisting on prayers and obligations, inflict many abstinences and punishments upon their bodies. But they are immediately offended and disturbed about a single word which seems to be harmful to their bodies or about something which might e taken away from them. These people are not poor in spirit, for someone who is truly poor in spirit hates himself and loves those who strike him on the cheek.

St. Francis of Assisi
Source: St. Francis of Assisi, The Saint, Early Documents

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Luchesius, born near Poggi-Bonzi in Etruria, was at first a merchant.  Enlightened by the grace of God he distributed his possessions to the poor and was according to tradition the first to receive the habit of the Third Order of Saint Francis.  He was renowned for love of neighbor, poverty, humility and austerity of life.  He died about the year 1260 in the eightieth year of his life.

From the common of the holy men, 1452

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Being Catholic

I love being Catholic.
Becoming Catholic was a great deal about Bishop Sheen and Father John Powell. But it was equally about "bells and smells". And Sacraments. It was Holy Water and Precious Blood. Sacred Scripture and two thousand years of capital T Tradition.

My conversion to the Roman Church was not because I was exasperated by the theological insufficiency of what Protestants taught. In fact, I was a happy Protestant. And the theology was quite sufficient to answer any questions that one might raise. We forget that every church, and every denomination has smart people to support their positions at the expense of the smart people of other churches and denominations. So what I did was to move from good to better -- not bad to good.

Initially, most of the Catholic distinctives seemed to be interesting alternatives to explain philosophical quandaries faced by any thinking person. For example: Mankind has a problem with sin. They would like to get out of the problem. Getting out of that problem merits heaven. Failure to get out of the problem yields hell. Purgatory and Limbo were simply interesting Catholic notions to provide the place to go when one failed the criteria for heaven and hell. Purgatory was a stop most made on the way to Heaven. And Limbo? Well, limbo was a more or less logical construct developed by some theologians to handle the problem of children who died before being baptized. Conveniently, it wasn't exactly church teaching, but one could believe in it if one wanted to.

Since I wasn't Catholic, such issues were intellectually intriguing but not applicable to my own worldview. Remember, I was a happy Protestant.

Many conservative Catholics suggest reading the church fathers. More specifically, certain church fathers who support the idea that the early church and the Catholic Church are essentially one and the same institution.

Most Church fathers were pretty unconvincing to me. They were unconvincing because I already agreed. I was, as they say, convinced. And besides that , most of the translations I found were difficult to read. With the exception of Augustine, I found them pretty dry. Obviously bright men, I just couldn't connect them to my happy Protestant world. And some, Origen for example, occasionally seemed strange enough that I lost interest.

About this time I had a friend who became Catholic. He said he joined because it was okay to drink alcohol as a Catholic. As a Baptist drinking had been wrong. I remember asking him if this might be a new evangelization thrust for capturing the twenty-something? He was not amused.

Others proposed the attractiveness of Catholic culture. I suppose this is all about bingo, raffles, and special attention to particular feast days. Well, Catholic culture is great sociology, but it has never been the attraction for joining Holy Mother Church.

The attraction is simply Jesus. A conscious focus on Jesus at Calvary and what he accomplished there and taking care of my sin problem. Catholicism. appeared to be what Jesus had in mind when he and St. Peter talked about church and rocks. That was and is now focusing on Jesus as he appears in the Gospel and trying to grow in my understanding of him. It's spending my time trying to do what the Bible says. For me, conversion was not something done after tallying up whether Catholics or Protestants provided the most convincing arguments in some debate going on in my head.

The philosopher, Peter Kreeft, writes some place that to sacrifice people to principle becomes legalism. And to sacrifice principle to people is relativism. Pope Benedict has written often and eloquently about relativism. 

Legalism doesn't seem as much a problem, unless one becomes scrupulous. Likely because in an effort of misguided compassion we have come to tolerate almost anything as acceptable. Political correctness has found favor as the only principle by which to make decisions. Morality has largely become making choices based on how I feel rather than on absolute propositions about what is right and what is wrong. So, although legalism in its most virulent forms (the aforementioned scrupulosity, for example) is to be avoided, it's also good to have something to believe in, some moral compass other than talk radio and talk television.

In my way of thinking, Roman Catholicism achieves a balance between these two ditches. It steers clear of these extremes of relativism and legalism when it's working well.

Its emphasis on grace, mercy, and forgiveness is magnetic to me. Offering grace and mercy and forgiveness to other people could change our world We might even become a Christian culture.

Finally, I'll are country's glorification of personal feelings has come to the church. And feelings may be winning in practice if not in principle. This is a problem. To be more direct: What is the difference between the behaviors of weekly Mass attenders and those whom we label secularists?

Catholic teaching does not hold feelings as unimportant. They just are not the moral compass. They follow on the heels of choices made on the basis of principles. In particular, principles carved from Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Magisterium.

At the same time, the church, the body of Christ is made of persons. Flawed persons to be sure, but nonetheless, creations of God. Baptized creatures. Confirmed creatures. And if they were baptized and confirmed then they should be participating in the body of Christ.

I am a person. As I get to know Jesus (a person) I find my place in him. I follow him and his church into glory.

That makes more sense than any cow pile covered in snow. I've seen one of those up close. That's not me, and that's not you as Christians, Catholics, or Franciscans.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Feast - April 24

Fidelis was born in the town of Sigmaringen in Germany in the year 1578. He joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin and lived an austere life in vigils and prayers. He was indefatigable in preaching the word of God, and at the commsand of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith the preached sound doctrine in Raetia. In the year 1622 he was attached by heretics at Sewis in Switzerland and died as a martyr.

From the common of one martyr, in the Easter Season, 1414, or of pastors, 1426.

THE RULE - Chapter Two - The Way of Life - 12

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter Two –The Way of Life

Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Feast Day - April 23

Giles, one of the first disciples of St. Francis, was a man of simplicity and meekness. Urged on by his spirit of devotion he made pilgrimages to various shrines. He earned his own livelihood, however, by helping farmers in their work. Without neglecting to work for the salvation of souls he lived as a hermit. Devoting himself to ascetical practices and contemplation, he spent the last year of his life at Perugia. He died in the year 1262.

From the common of holy men: religious 1470
([Quaracchi 1905] 62-64)

From the Sayings of blessed Giles of Assisi

It is a great thing to preserve devoutly and conscientiously till death in religious life.

Speaking about himself Brother Giles used to say: “I would prefer living in religious life with a small measure of grace to living in the world with abundant grace because there are more dangers and fewer means of assistance in the world than in religious life. A sinful man, however, fears what is good for him more than what is harmful for him because he is more afraid to do penance and enter religious life than to be burdened with sin and remain in the world.”

A man in the world asked Brother Giles’ advice whether it would be better for him to enter religious life. Holy Brother Giles answered: “If a very poor man knew that a valuable treasurer was buried in some public field would he ask another’s advice whether he should go quickly to the treasure? How much more should men hurry to dig up heavenly treasure?

Brother Giles was wont to say: “Many enter religious life and yet do not live as religious should. These men are like a simpleton who put on Roland’s armor without knowing how to do battle in it. I do not consider it a great thing to enter a king’s court, nor do I consider it a great thing to accept a gift from a king, but I do consider it a great thing to know how to conduct oneself at the king’s court. Religious life is the court of the Great King. To enter it and to receive some gifts from God is not great thing, but I do consider it a great thing to live in it and to preserve in it devoutly and conscientiously till death. I would, however, prefer to life in the world devoutly and conscientiously, and to yearn to enter religious life, rather than to live in religious life and be weary of it.”

He likewise used to say: “It seems to me that the religious life of the Friars Minor was given to the world for the great benefit of mankind. Woe to us if we are not the kind of men we ought to be. The religious life of the Friars Minor seems to me to be the poorest and the richest in the world. But this seems to me to be our greatest failing: we are willing to live in religious life with standards that are too low. He is rich who imitates a rich man; he is wise who imitates a wise man; he is distinguished who imitates a distinguished person; he is noble who imitates a noble person, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Admonitions XV - PEACE

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Mt. 5:9

These people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Francis of Assisi
 Source: St. Francis of Assisi, The Saint, Early Documents

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CONRAD OF PARZHAM, Religious, First Order

Conrad Birndofer, previous named John, was born in Bavaria in the year 1818. After living devoutly as a young man he made religious profession in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in the year 1842. For forty-three years he reserved as porter of the friary at Alotting distinguishing himself for a very great charity, zeal and patience. He died in 1894 with a reputation for great holiness.

From the common of holy men: religious, 1470

From the letters of Saint Conrad of Parzham

I am always united with God whom I dearly love

It was God’s will that I should leave everything that was near and dear to me. I thank him for having called me to religious life where I have found such peace and joy as I could never have found in the world. My plan of life is chiefly this: to love and suffer, always mediating upon, adoring and admiring God’s unspeakable love for his lowliest creatures.

Nothing is really a hindrance to me because I am always united with our dear Lord. In fact, the more I have to do the more I feel that I am united with God. I then speak to god in a familiar way, like a son to his father. I speak in prayers and aspirations. I make known to him with childlike confidence everything that weighs on my soul.

And if at times I have sinned I humbly beg for pardon asking only to show myself a good and obedient son of a most loving father and to love him with greater love. To practice the virtues of meekness and humility I need only to look at Jesus crucified and I learn how I must act in various circumstances. So in this way I learn humility, meekness, patience, how I must carry the cross, and it become light. I gratefully accept both joy and tribulation from our heavenly Father for he knows best what is good for us.

Thus I always rejoice in the Lord having only this complain that I do not love enough . If only I had the love of one of the Seraphim! I would like to compel all creation to help me love God above all things. Love never fails.
From: Proper Offices of Franciscan Saints and Blesseds in the Liturgy of the Hours

Monday, April 19, 2010

THE RULE - Chapter two - The Way of Life - 11

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter Two –The Way of Life

Trusting the Father, Christ chose for Himself and His mother a poor and humble life, even though He valued created things attentively and lovingly. Let the Secular Franciscans seek a proper spirit of detachment from temporal goods by simplifying their own material needs. Let them be mindful that according to the gospel they are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God's children.

Thus, in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and as pilgrims and strangers on their way to the home of the Father, they should strive to purify their hearts from every tendency and yearning for possession and power.

Friday, April 16, 2010


   The apostle says: No one can say: Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit; (1 Cor 12:3) and: There is not one who does good, not even one. (Rom 3:12)

   Therefore, whoever envies his brother the good that the Lord says or does in him incurs a sin of blasphemy because he envies the Most High Himself Who says and does every good thing. (Mt 20:15)

St. Francis of Assisi

Source: St. Francis of Assisi, The Saint, Early Documents

Monday, April 12, 2010

THE RULE - Chapter Two –The Way of Life - 10

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter Two –The Way of Life

United themselves to the redemptive obedience of Jesus, who placed his will into the Father’s hands, let them faithfully fulfill the duties proper to their various circumstances of life. Let them also follow the poor and crucified Christ, witness to him even in difficulties and persecutions.

Friday, April 9, 2010


St. Francis of Assisi

The apostle says: The letter kills, but the spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3)

Those people are put to death by the letter who only wish to know the words alone, that they might be esteemed wiser than others and be able to acquire great riches to give to their relatives and friends.

And those religious are put to death by the letter who are not willing to follow the spirit of the divine letter but, instead, wish only to know the words and to interpret them for others.

And those people are brought to life by the spirit of the divine letter who do not attribute every letter they know, or wish to know, to the body but, by word and example, return them to the most high Lord God to Whom every good belongs.

Source: St. Francis of Assisi, The Saint, Early Documents

Monday, April 5, 2010

THE RULE - Chapter Two –The Way of Life - 9

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order
Chapter Two –The Way of Life

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.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Benedict was born in San Fratello near Messina, Italy in 1526. His parents were negro slaves who had been transported from Africa to Italy where they converted to Christianity. At the age of eighteen Benedict was given his freedom. He was popularly called the holy black by the poor and the sick who benefited by his charities and benevolent services. He was chosen the leader of a group of independent hermits on the death of the founder. When Pius IV disbanded this and the similar groups, Benedict was received into the Order of the Friars Minor. Though illiterate he soon became the guardian of the Franciscan Friary of Saint Mary in Palermo. Because of his extraordinary gifts of prayer and counsel people of every class sought his guidance. He died in Palerno in 1589 and is venerated as the patron of the Blacks in North America.

From the common of holy men: religious, 1470

True Brotherhood
The life of every saint presents a challenge and offers to others encouragement to holiness. The time, place and circumstances of life are peculiar to each saint, and they vary with each one. It is the use of divine grace and conformity to the divine will which consecrate the circumstances and sanctify the person using them. Use of grace and conformity to God's will constitute the challenge and the power of example that give courage to all Christians to apply the same means to achieve the same basic goal, each in his own way, in his own time, and to his own situation.
The challenge which Saint Benedict the Black presents to us is his total response to the Lord's command at the Last Supper; I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so should your love be for one another. The integration of Benedict the Black into a community of Franciscan confreres racially and ethnically different from himself, their mutual acceptance and love for one another, the choice which the Friars made to have Benedict, through illiterate, become the superior and the guardian of their religious community - these present a timely challenge. They are the source of great encouragement toward holiness through love of neighbor for the love of God. And this challenge and encouragement are further enhanced by the power of Benedict's example not only to love his neighbor as himself but to love as Christ loved, as he said to his apostles: Your love for one another must be such as my love has been for you. In this love we find the true brotherhood for all mankind.
From: Proper Offices of Franciscan Saints and Blesseds in the Liturgy of the Hours

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Admonitions I – THE BODY OF CHRIST

St. Francis of Assisi

The Lord says to his disciples: I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except though me. If you knew me, you would also know my Father, and from now on, you do know him and have seen him. Philip says to him: Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us. Jesus says to him: Have I been with you for so long a time and you have not known me? Philip, whoever sees me sees my Father as well. (Jn 14:6-9)

The Father dwells in inaccessible light, and God is spirit and no one has ever seen God. (1Tim 6:16; Jn 4:24; Jn 1:18) Therefore, He cannot be seen except in the Spirit because it is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh has nothing to offer. (Jn 6:63)  But because He is equal to the Father, the Son is not seen by anyone other than the Father or than the Holy Spirit.

All those who saw the Lord Jesus according to the humanity, therefore, and did not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that He is the true Son of God were condemned. Now in the same way, all those who see the sacrament sanctified by the words of the Lord upon the altar at the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and who do not see and believe according to the Spirit and the Divinity that it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned. This is affirmed by the Most High Himself Who says: This is my Body and the Blood of my new covenant which will be shed for many; and Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. (Mk 14: 22,24; Jn 6:55)  It is the Spirit of the Lord, therefore, That lives in Its faithful, That receives the Body and Blood of the Lord. All others who do no share in this same Spirit and presume to receive Him eat and drink judgment on themselves. (1 Cor 11:29)

Therefore: children, how long will you be hard of heart? (Ps 4:3) Why do you not know the truth and believe in the Son of God? (Jn 9:35)  Behold, each day He humbles Himself as when He came from the royal throne (Phil 2:8; Wis 18:15)  into the Virgin’s womb; each day He Himself comes to us, appearing humbly; each day He comes down from the bosom of the Father upon the altar in the hands of a priest.

As He revealed Himself to the holy apostles in true flesh, so He reveals Himself to us now in sacred bread. And as they saw only His flesh by an insight of their flesh, yet believed that He was God as they contemplated Him with their spiritual eyes, let us, as we see bread and wine with our bodily eyes, see and firmly believe that they are His most holy Body and Blood living and true. And in this way the Lord is always with His faithful, as He Himself says: Behold I am with you until the end of the age. (Mt 28:20)

Source: St. Francis of Assisi, The Saint, Early Documents

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Saint Francis Speaks on the Passion of Christ

And as His Passion was near, He celebrated the Passover with his disciples and, taking bread, gave thanks, blessed and broke it, saying: Take and eat: This is My Body. (Mt 26:26) And taking the cup He said: This is My Blood of the New Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. (Mt 26:28) Then He prayed to His Father, saying: Father, if it can be done, let this cup pass from me. (Lk 22:42) And His sweat became as drops of blood falling on the ground. (Lk 22:44) Nevertheless, He placed His will in the will of His Father, saying: Father, let Your will be done; not as I will, but as You will. (Mt 26:42; 26:39) His Father’s will was such that His blessed and glorious Son, Whom He gave to us and Who was born for us, should offer Himself through His own blood as a sacrifice and oblation on the altar of the Cross: not for Himself through Whom all things were made, (Jn 1:3) but for our sins, leaving us an example that we might follow His footprints. (1Pt 2:21)

From Saint Francis of Assisi, “Later Admonition and Exhortation to the Brothers and sisters of Penance”