Archive for the ‘Rule of the OFS’ Category

Lady Poverty   Leave a comment

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”  Matthew 13:44-46.

“Now someone approached him and said, ‘Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?’  He answered him, ‘Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’  He asked him, ‘Which ones?’  And Jesus replied,  ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  The young man said to him, ‘All of these I have observed.  What do I still lack?’  Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.’  When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”  Matthew 19:16-22.

For Francis, Lady Poverty was symbolic of the poor Christ.  She was the symbol of the paradoxes of the Gospel, such as richness in poverty, life in death, strength in weakness, peace in temptation, fullness in emptiness and love in detachment and deprivation.  Lady Poverty made everything hard soft, and everything difficult easy.

For Francis, Lady Poverty also was a means to the indwelling of God and a way of life that makes present the kingdom of God here and now.  (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”)  God takes up his dwelling among us only when we are poor in spirit, emptied and detached from all that prevents Him from filling us with himself. Lady Poverty involves simple living, an attitude of love, thankfulness and giving and using our gifts as they were intended.  It brings freedom and true joy and, above all, requires humility.  It involves cleaning out the clutter of our hearts and surroundings to make room for God and surrendering to His holy will.

The way to Lady Poverty takes us through the Garden of Eden where we must slay the dragons of pride, pleasure and possessions, those same dragons encountered by our first parents and by Jesus in the desert and again in the other garden, the Garden of Gethsemane.  This is the struggle that Francis went through, especially during his early days.  There, in Eden or the desert or Gethsemane, like Francis, we learn that Christ alone is the fullness of life and our priority is to seek first the kingdom of God.  We repent and choose to follow the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.  We join Jesus on the cross and die to self.

Francis and His Father

Lady Poverty was a pearl of great price for which Francis gave up everything when he stripped himself of his clothes before his father and the bishop.  Earlier that day he had been begging in the streets.  The crowds were more abusive and louder than usual when Francis passed his father’s shop.  Bernardone was livid with shame and heartbreak.

Bernardone dragged Francis before the Bishop of Assisi, asking for the return of his money.  During this encounter and before all the people, Francis removed his clothes and placed them at the feet of his father.  He declared, “Until now I have called Peter di Bernardone my father.  Now I return his gold and the clothes I have received from him.  From now on I shall no longer say:  ‘My father, Peter di Bernardone,’ but ‘Our Father who art in heaven!’”

Many could not hold back their tears.  Even the bishop was emotional as he covered Francis with his own cloak.  Some castoff clothes of the gardener were found for him.

The rich young man in Matthew went away from Jesus sad.  His possessions were a barrier between himself and God.  He could not detach himself from those things that separated him from the Lord.  He could not surrender his heart nor deny himself.  No doubt Francis felt sadness too at the loss of his father, but he went away with the joy of  having bought a pearl of great price.  Francis went away poor, but he embraced Lady Poverty – he embraced the poor Christ – and became rich.  The kingdom of heaven was his.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 16:24.

The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Article 11

Trusting in 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.

(Sources:  The New American Bible; The Journey and the Dream by Murray Bodo; Saint Francis of Assisi by Leon Cristiani; The Way of St. Francis by Murray Bodo; The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order.)

Posted September 5, 2013 by ouidaofs in Beatitudes, Poverty, Rule of the OFS, Saint Francis

A SONG FOR NAGASAKI   Leave a comment

I recently read a book entitled A Song for Nagasaki by Fr. Paul Glynn, SM. It is the story of Takashi Nagai. Nagai was a devout Catholic convert, husband, father, teacher, doctor, and writer. Nagai lived in Nagasaki, in Japan, when the United States dropped the A bomb on August 9, 1945.

When the A bomb dropped on August 9th, Nagasaki suffered a direct hit in its Urakami district, the historic Catholic area, and 8500 Catholics were killed (including Nagai’s wife) and more suffered and later died from the effects of atomic radiation. St. Mary’s Cathedral was totally destroyed.

St. Mary’s construction began in 1895 and was completed in 1917, twenty-two years later. The work began under the direction of an amateur architect priest, and it was a colossal effort, all done by poor people. The Cathedral was 230 feet long and accommodated five thousand worshippers. It was largest cathedral in the Far East, with two bell towers more than one hundred feet high.

Intercessions of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv.

When the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Dr. Nagai was working at the hospital, about one-half mile away from the center. Soon he and others in the hospital began showing signs of radiation sickness. Nagai was thought to be dying, and in his coma, he heard a voice telling him to pray to the Franciscan friar, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe, OFM Conv. Nagai had known Fr. Kolbe well in the early 1930s and had x-rayed him concerning Fr. Kolbe’s chronic tuberculosis.

Nagai recovered by October 5th, and he attributed his remission for six years to the intercessions of Fr. Kolbe. Not known to Nagai, Fr. Kolbe had died on August 14, 1941, in the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz in Poland. He was canonized Saint Maximilian Kolbe on October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Fr. Kolbe had a history in Nagasaki between 1930 and 1936 when he undertook a series of missions to Japan and founded a monastery, Japanese paper and seminary. He established Mugenzai no Sono (the Garden of the Immaculate), built on the slopes of Mount Hikosan. It was saved when the bomb dropped because it was built on the opposite side of the mountain from the Nagasaki center.

Religious Persecution

A Song for Nagasaki describes the persecution of Japanese Catholics down through time and how they suffered and died for their faith. Truly, we in the United States do not know what religious persecution is compared to the people of Japan and other countries. We have not suffered physical torture or martyrdom at the hands of our government yet.

I have reflected on all the books I have read concerning torture and death of Christians, through actions or sanctions of the government, beginning in the New Testament. Consider all the persecution and deaths of Catholics and Protestants from the 1500’s, down through time, especially in England, beginning with Henry VIII. Consider de-christianization of France during the French Revolution. Consider events in Mexico in the 1900’s, especially in the 1920’s, depicted in the recent movie, For Greater Glory, and the book, Mexican Martyrdom by Wilfrid Parsons, S.J. Consider Nazi Germany (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by Shirer). Consider the history of Christian persecution, tortures, and deaths in countries throughout the world on this single website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians.

On the internet, Open Doors provides the World Wide Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. The countries where persecution is most severe are North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea, and Syria. http://www.worldwatchlist.us/

Certain Unalienable Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . .” Declaration of Independence.

The First Amendment to the Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We must guard our religious freedom and keep the government from unconstitutional domination and restrictions. Learn from the history of other countries. Seek the truth and study the founding documents and history of our country, especially the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Understand that the First Amendment to the Constitution, in the Establishment Clause, limits the power of our government but does not limit the religious freedom and power of the citizens, contrary to what is being indicated by the government, the media and others. Help to eliminate ignorance, apathy and the low information voter who may rely on Twitter and social media for their news.

Religious persecution often starts slowly, growing into a hideous, evil monster, ending in the suffering and deaths of many. Yes, it can happen to us here in the United States.

Let Us Follow the Poor and Crucified Christ

As Christians, we must fight against loss of religious freedom through prayer and fasting, through being a light to the world, and through standing for respect for life from conception to natural death. Most important of all, remember the Lord says, “ if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14. Is this not what Saint Francis also would say to us? Did he not put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)?

All Christians are called to holiness and to live in the spirit of the Beatitudes on this journey home to the Father. Secular Franciscans must follow our Rule and the lead of our Holy Father Francis to live in simplicity and care for the poor.

It is not the duty of the government to care for the poor but the duty of the Church to assist and care for the poor, sick, orphans, widowed, the homeless and all the marginalized. We must not allow the government to usurp our duties to those in need in our country and the world. The Church restores dignity to peoples and leads to salvation for the many. It assists and cares but does not enable. The government creates dependency and powerlessness among the people in its drive for power.

In March 22, 2013, Pope Francis, in the audience with the Diplomatic Corps, spoke of “fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges.” He spoke of respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment. He is the Pope for our times, showing a true Franciscan spirit by his life and teachings. He points the way to the Way, and for Secular Franciscans, our Rule guides and instructs us.

The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Nagasaki in 1597
The Twenty-Six Martyrs of Nagasaki in 1597

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Sources and recommended readings on the World Wide Web

1. “The Catholic Holocaust of Nagasaki – ‘Why, Lord?’” Brother Anthony Josemaria, August 1, 2010.

http://www.hprweb.com/2010/08/the-catholic-holocaust-of-nagasaki-why-lord/

2. “Takashi Nagai’s Life and Message of Peace,” Cecilia Bryan, June 23, 2012.

http://catholicism.org/takashi-nagais-life-and-message-of-peace.html

3. Twenty-Six Martyrs Museum. http://www.26martyrs.com/

4. “The Conversion of Takashi Nagai, And His Vocation of Life,” Frank Weathers, April 28, 2013. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yimcatholic/2013/04/the-conversion-of-takashi-nagai-and-his-vocation-of-love.html

Ephesians 6 – Battle against Evil.

10 Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. 11 Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. 13 Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. 14 So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, 15 and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Source: http://www.usccb.org/bible/ephesians/6

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