Fierce like Francis

While all Secular Franciscans follow the same call, to live a Gospel life in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, every Secular Franciscan follows this call differently, according to his or her own abilities and state of life. Every Secular Franciscan has a particular way in which we can say that he or she is like Francis.

Eileen was fierce like Francis.

Despite the many difficulties, health crises, and hardships she endured in her later years (or maybe because of them), Eileen was not about to waste time thinking but never acting. She challenged us: are we doing enough? Are we praying enough? Are we listening to God enough? What is God telling us to do?

Sometimes Eileen would come to a Secular Franciscan gathering and ask bold questions, seemingly out of nowhere. But those questions were born of her deep faith and constant prayer. When she was not physically able to do more, she always prayed and contemplated.

In Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious, Pat Gohn noted,

The good of the Gospel is that it leads us to new life in Christ and, ultimately, eternal life in heaven. This gospel of life has a very practical application for Christians. A woman’s influence in the world consists of being a guardian of life. We give witness to it in our very nature, and that should extend to the moral leadership we have wherever we live and work. (161)

Indeed, Eileen was a mother and grandmother, giving witness to the gift of life; but her work did not stop there. Eileen had a deep concern for the unborn, and she participated in the March for Life as she was able. Throughout the year, she worked to keep the cause of the vulnerable unborn in the public eye by writing letters to the editor of our local newspaper, many of which were published.

St. Francis had many fierce moments in his life: his embrace of the leper, his journey to Egypt with the aim of converting the Sultan, his refusal to stay in the fine monasteries he’d advised the brothers not to build, his renunciation of his father’s wealth. Some might call these reckless moves, but they were not at all reckless. They were born of faith and prayer and a wish to live up to very high ideals. They required courage and fierceness.

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The dream of Pope Innocent III: Francis holds up the Lateran Basilica with his shoulder. Giotto di Bondone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Early in his ministry, St. Francis traveled to Rome to receive papal approval of his rule of life. Pope Innocent III hesitated in granting this approval, thinking that Francis’ way of life was impractical. But according to legend, Innocent dreamed he saw Francis propping up the Basilica of St. John Lateran with his shoulder — and this convinced him to give his blessing to the Franciscans. It’s fitting, then, that we celebrate Eileen’s life today, on the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the first physical church building and the symbol of the Church that Francis had set out to rebuild.

Not all of us are courageous enough to be fierce like Francis. But Eileen was, and all of us who knew her are better for her boldness.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon her. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

fierce like francis


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
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#WorthRevisit: My Franciscan Saint for the Year

I’m linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb for #WorthRevisit Wednesday, a place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link up with fellow bloggers!

Yesterday my Secular Franciscan Fraternity enjoyed its annual celebration of choosing a patron saint for the year. I’m revisiting a post I shared at CatholicMom.com that explains the process–and at the end, I’ll tell you what saint was chosen for me this year!

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My Franciscan Saint for the Year

It is a Franciscan tradition that at the feast of the Epiphany, each person is given the name of a patron saint for the year. Many Secular Franciscan (Third Order) groups observe this custom, and it really is a lovely way to begin the year. We are encouraged to learn more about our chosen saint, reading about their lives or reading works the saints themselves have written.

In my Secular Franciscan Fraternity, we receive a patron saint for the year as well as a virtue to cultivate and a maxim upon which to meditate. This maxim may be a quote from Scripture or from Saint Francis. We also receive the name of another member of the Fraternity and are asked to keep that person in special prayer throughout the year. Other Fraternities might have a different prayer or procedure; this is how our local group celebrates this ritual each year.

The leader begins by reminding everyone:

We believe that God speaks to us in many ways, not the least of which is through the example of His saints, and through the inspired words of Scripture and other pious writings.  Your patron for the year—as well as the maxim and the virtue—can be a special source of inspiration in the challenges which might be facing you during the year.  Read the life of the saint; what does the message of his/her life have to say to you?  Reflect on the maxim and the virtue.

We pray:

Almighty and everlasting God, we celebrate that day when your Word became flesh for all the world to see.  In becoming one with our human family he sanctified human activity and made us holy through his life-giving word.  Through the ages, his message has continued to touch the hearts of men and women of every place, taking flesh in their lives through Christian service.  May these holy men and women stand as shining examples of Christian virtue and the Gospel life, for each one of them reflects a unique aspect of your divine love.  Be with us today, Lord our God, as we choose one of these saints as our patron for the new year.  With the help of your Spirit, may the saint given to us today serve as a special reminder of our call to holiness.  May his or her teaching and example serve to inspire us to exercise Christian virtue and to follow your Son more closely in our Franciscan family.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Our Super-Low-Tech Franciscan Saint’s Name Generator consists of four stacks of index cards, a basket, and slips of paper with each member’s name written on them. The cards contain the names of many Franciscan saints, the virtues, the maxims, and the members of the Fraternity. The slips of paper go into the basket, which is passed around the room. As each name is drawn, cards for saints, virtues, maxims and “prayer partners” are chosen for that person.

We then pray Psalm 150 together and conclude with this prayer:

O God, you have raised up men and women outstanding in holiness as examples to your people in following in your footsteps.  Grant that we may ever look to the example and teaching of your saints, imitating their virtue, and thus merit to arrive at your heavenly banquet.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

It is a prayerful experience, but it’s often punctuated by joking and laughter, especially when someone is handed the virtue of Poverty or (yikes) Patience. There are also many expressions of gratitude for prayers to come when people learn the name of their prayer partners, and offers to share biographies of saints.

And now for…The Big Reveal!

My patron saint for 2016: St. Clare of Assisi (feast: August 11)

My motto: “Good works must follow knowledge.”

My virtue: Love

 

 

worth revisit

 

In Honor of the Feast

Today is the Feast of St. Francis. I didn’t get to Mass this morning, because I was substitute-teaching at Little Brother’s school.

But I told them that I could only do half a day today, because this afternoon, the Secular Franciscans were getting together for a little retreat led by our very own Secular Franciscan Deacon! Together we reflected on being Franciscan, on minority, poverty, commitment and renewal. We closed the retreat with Adoration and Benediction.

So what does it mean to be a Franciscan in today’s world? Among other things, it means that we decide to serve rather than to be served; to “rebuild the Church” person by person, and to witness that people are more important than things.

And it means that we seek to surround ourselves with other who are striving for the same goal.

Today I am thankful for my Franciscan family! May this feast, and all days, be blessed.