Franciscans: April 2010 Archives
Not long ago President Obama appointed Franciscan Brother Daniel Sulmasy, MD, to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. He's universally well-received for his competence, compassion and humor. Oh, yes, the President did appoint a Catholic, a religious and a pro-life member to the commission.
Brother Daniel is a professed member of the Order of Friars Minor of the Holy Name Province and he's a friend and collaborator with Communion and Liberation. He spoke at the first annual New York Encounter in January, 2010.
Pope Leo XIII begins Humanum Genus (the 1884 encyclical on Freemasonry) by acknowledging the divided heart of humanity since the Fall man and woman: there are "separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ; and those who desire from their heart to be united with it, so as to gain salvation, must of necessity serve God and His only-begotten Son with their whole mind and with an entire will. The other is the kingdom of Satan, in whose possession and control are all whosoever follow the fatal example of their leader and of our first parents, those who refuse to obey the divine and eternal law, and who have many aims of their own in contempt of God, and many aims also against God."
One his recommendations was to advocate the faithful's vital membership in the Third Order of St Francis, today called the Secular Franciscan Order. Himself a Third Order Franciscan, Pope Leo's recommendation didn't fall on deaf ears because diocesan seminarians, priests and bishops joined the Third Order and millions of the laity followed suit. Here is what Pope Leo XIII said:
Wherefore, not without cause do We use this occasion to state again what We have stated elsewhere, namely, that the Third Order of St. Francis, whose discipline We a little while ago prudently mitigated,* should be studiously promoted and sustained; for the whole object of this Order, as constituted by its founder, is to invite men to an imitation of Jesus Christ, to a love of the Church, and to the observance of all Christian virtues; and therefore it ought to be of great influence in suppressing the contagion of wicked societies. Let, therefore, this holy sodality be strengthened by a daily increase. Amongst the many benefits to be expected from it will be the great benefit of drawing the minds of men to liberty, fraternity, and equality of right; not such as the Freemasons absurdly imagine, but such as Jesus Christ obtained for the human race and St. Francis aspired to: the liberty, We mean, of sons of God, through which we may be free from slavery to Satan or to our passions, both of them most wicked masters; the fraternity whose origin is in God, the common Creator and Father of all; the equality which, founded on justice and charity, does not take away all distinctions among men, but, out of the varieties of life, of duties, and of pursuits, forms that union and that harmony which naturally tend to the benefit and dignity of society. (34)
*The text here refers to the encyclical letter Auspicato Concessum (Sept. 17, 1882), in which Pope Leo XIII had recently glorified St. Francis of Assisi on the occasion of the seventh centenary of his birch. In this encyclical, the Pope had presented the Third Order of St. Francis as a Christian answer to the social problems of the times. The constitution Misericors Dei Filius (June 23, 1883) expressly recalled that the neglect in which Christian virtues are held is the main cause of the evils that threaten societies. In confirming the rule of the Third Order and adapting it to the needs of modern times, Pope Leo XIII had intended to bring back the largest possible number of souls to the practice of these virtues.
Perhaps there ought to be a new appraisal of the vocation to the Secular Franciscans with the encouragement to join!
You may be wondering why I am asking you to send up some prayers for the Conventual Franciscans. This week two east coast Conventual Franciscan provinces are meeting in a provincial chapter to discuss matters pertaining to their life as Franciscans. A chapter meets every four years. This week the two provinces on the east coast of the USA are deciding by vote the merger of their provinces, no insignificant matter. May the Holy Spirit guide and protect the discussions!
The Conventual Franciscans arrived in the USA in the 19th century to work with the German and then Polish immigrant peoples You can read more their history here The Conventual Franciscans History.pdf. Fast forwarding through particular histories, about four years ago, the then Minister Provincial Father Canice Connors introduced the idea of merging the two east coast provinces, Immaculate Conception and Saint Anthony of Padua, into one; each province has about 100 men in each so we're not talking about hugh numbers of men coming together like, for example, what the Jesuits are doing at the moment (they're moving 10 provinces into 5). This merger will change the face of Conventual Franciscan life in the friaries and in the many dioceses where the friars serve in the East, especially in some New York and Connecticut dioceses.
You can also follow developments of the world-wide Conventual Franciscan movement on their website.
The witness of of the Franciscans is necessary for us today and we ought to sustain them by prayer and fraternal relations in their deliberations, today and in the days/years to come. As Pope Benedict mentioned in his Regina Caeli address of April 5, we need to be heralds to the world of God the Father's great plan for the restoration of man: of God's love for man and woman, our resurrection with Christ in glory. In baptism all Christian people are called to announce and to live the divine love; the charism passed down to us from Saint Francis through the Conventuals ought to do the same.
Let me end but calling to mind Holy Father Saint Francis' words to the Friars at the end of his Rule of life which I think may be appropriate for all of us to consider in for our prayer for the Conventuals (and for ourselves):
O most beloved brothers and sons forever blessed, hear me, hear the voice of your Father:
Great things we have promised;
greater have been promised us.
Let us observe the former;
let us aspire to the latter.
Pleasure is short;
Suffering is slight;
Many are called;
few are chosen.
Retribution for all.
Brethren, while we have time, let us do good.
May the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, Saint Joseph, Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, Saints Anthony of Padua and Maximilian Mary Kolbe, pray for a favorable outcome of this week's chapter.
Easter week is time for spring break this year, especially after a very busy Holy Week schedule. And getting away from the ordinary was required. Like all graduate students on break, I went to visit friends at a Conventual Franciscan friary in Maryland.
One of my friends there is Friar Brad, the Father Guardian (and formation director) of the student brothers and postulants. My other friend Friar Gabriel who's originally from the New Haven, CT area and preparing to profess vows and to follow more intensely the Franciscan way of life. Besides preparing for priesthood, Gabriel and I share a number of common things in life; the important part of the visit was seeing him in situ and understanding his religious life as a Conventual friar (the group first founded by St Francis of Assisi). Being among the friars was restful and delightful. I wasn't there too long but I did get to Washington, DC, Georgetown, WTU and the Shrine of St Anthony, Ellicott City, Maryland. Sadly, the cherry blossoms were gone by the time I bounced on the scene.
A ministry of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, the Shrine of St Anthony is a place of welcome of pilgrims come from far and near for a period of prayer. The Shrine is located in the farmlands of Howard County in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Situated on about 200 acres, you know you are in farmland by sight and scent: the working farms dot the landscape. As good stewards of the land, the friars rent a good portion of the land to the University of Maryland for their learning. Architecturely the shrine will remind you immediately of Tuscan architecture with the tile roof, gardens, stone and wood work. I had an immediate sense of home. The friar's chapel has an exquisitely carved set of choir stalls. As a spiritual "program" the friars provide a horizon for reconciliation, healing, spiritual direction, meditation and contemplation. Outdoor shrines are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Maximillian Kolbe and the Way of the Cross all which capture the theological imagination and propel the retreatant or causal visitor to work on holiness. The shrine chapel staff provides a regular schedule of the Mass, confession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Vespers. There's also Tuesday's Novena of St Anthony and 3 healing Masses a month.
On the 800th anniversary of St Anthony's birth the friars received a gift of a reliquary of St Anthony from the Italian province of Conventual Franciscans enthroned in a walnut-tree house. Historically St Anthony lived and preached in a walnut tree house.