Tag Archives: Secular Franciscan Order

Maria Goretti introduced her murderer to Jesus

Alessandro SerenelliI think there is much to learn of the martyr-saint by the person who killed her. Alessandro Serenelli killed the 11 year old Maria in 1902 and then spent the rest of his life in penance until the Lord called him home on May 6, 1970.

He spent 27 in prison (released in 1929). What I take as a prompting of the Holy Spirit, Serenelli asked for forgiveness on his knees Maria’s mother, Assunta Goretti, on Christmas night 1934. According to the world, Assunta caved. According to divine justice and mercy Assunta extended forgiveness to him because of her faith in Jesus Christ, and that on her deathbed, Maria forgave him.

In a 1961 letter found 10 years after Alessandro’s death –so in 1980– we know his thoughts:

When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.

If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.

Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.

Alessandro also relates that Maria appeared to him showing him the face of Christ.

The balance of Alessandro’s life was lived in a Capuchin friary as a Tertiary Franciscan (a secular Franciscan) working as the gardener and porter. It can be said that Maria brought her killer to Christ’s redeeming love. Alessandro testifies that the Capuchin friars welcomed him as a brother and not a servant or murder.

Pope Pius XII canonized Maria on June 24, 1950. A first for the Church was that the saint’s mother was present for the ceremony with the four remaining siblings. Pius said that the young saint was a witness to the value of purity of soul and body but she is also known for “mastery of the spiritual over the material, for docile love of her parents, for sacrifice in harsh, daily labor, for poverty accepted as the Gospel teaches us to accept it, for love of prayer and of Jesus in the Eucharist, for charity in her heroic forgiveness [of her murderer].” A million people were in Vatican City for the canonization.

Over the years I heard that Alessandro was present for the canonization but there is no hard evidence indicating such a gesture. No matter, Saint Maria and Alessandro are great examples of conversion and mercy … what the Christian life is all about.

Secular Franciscans of Bethlehem at 125

Franciscan crossed armsThe Secular Franciscan Order of Bethlehem are celebrating 125 years. Laity, according to their own context and vocation, are living the gospel and bringing the gospel message to the world. The SFO are living witnesses in imitation of Saint Francis of Assisi. The SFO provides personal formation to its members, education to youth, are present to the needs of the local church and assist in the Church Universal in a myriad of good works.

Living in Bethlehem brings a unique due to the fact it’s the place where the Lord lived, died, rose from the dead and ascended to God the Father.

The Franciscan Media Center carried the story here.

The vocation to follow in the steps of Saint Francis of Assisi and the blessers and saints of the Order is available around the world. You can check locally to see about the presence of SFO. Each fraternity is unique and one may not have the same vigor as another. Following the Lord in this way is a rewarding way to know, love and serve Jesus.

Blessed Luchesio Modestini of Poggibonzi

Bl Luchesio e Buonadonna.jpg

Lord God, You made blessed Luchesio whom You called to repentance illustrious in performing works of piety and charity. Through his prayers and example may we bring forth worthy fruits of penance and always abound in good works.

Blessed Luchesio (Luchesius; Lucius) died in 1242 was the first to accept the invitation of Saint Francis of Assisi to live the Rule of 1221; today we call the people living this Rule the Secular Franciscan Order, or sometimes the Third Order Laity. Lechesio was a husband, a businessman, a penitent who was dedicated to prayer, penance and works of charity. But Luchesio was not always the most pious, bible believing, Christian man in his neighborhood: he had a reputation for being greedy and ambitious; he was the 13th century equivalent to our financial and political scam artists today.

Grace set to work on Luchesio and then he encountered Saint Francis who took Luchesio’s conversion another step deeper into the Christian life by giving witness to the possibility of becoming a saint by living a poor, obedient and chaste life in an effort to be holy.
May Blessed Luchesio look kindly upon the Secular Franciscan Order by asking the Lord for the gifts of faith, hope and charity and a life of humility.

The Secular Franciscan Order: A pope’s recommendation to join

Pope Leo XIII.jpgPope 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:

St Francis detail.jpg

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
(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!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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