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.

Giotto_di_Bondone_-_Legend_of_St_Francis_-_6._Dream_of_Innocent_III_-_WGA09125
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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On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Franciscan Saints

In the month when we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi (which is actually a solemnity if you’re a professed Franciscan), it’s only fitting to read about some notable figures among his followers. There’s a long list of official Franciscan saints, but author Robert Ellsburg did not limit the selection to canonized saints in his new book The Franciscan Saints (Franciscan Media, 2017).

Franciscan saints

I discovered quite a few surprises in the table of contents, noting that the foundresses of several religious orders of women in the nineteenth century were listed: sisters from some of these orders educated members of my own extended family. And once I saw that the table of contents was organized chronologically (by year of death) I immediately went to the back of the book to discover more about contemporary Franciscans notable for their heroic virtue.

Father Mychal Judge, OFM, was listed, of course. The first certified victim of 9/11 died as he ministered to others dying after the attack on the World Trade Center. Judge, like a few of the other figures who died since 2000, has not had his cause for sainthood advanced enough (yet) to be referred to as “Servant of God,” an early step in the canonization process.

Learn more about the process of canonization in this video from Busted Halo:

I was also surprised to learn that St. Roch, to whom many members of my family have had a particular devotion, was a Franciscan. (I probably shouldn’t have been surprised by that; for over 100 years my family attended a parish staffed by Franciscan Friars.) My grandmother had a relic of St. Roch — the first holy relic I had ever seen.

The saints in this book come from all walks of life: missionaries, princesses (yes, a princess!), poets, widows, martyrs, reformers, Secular Franciscans, prophets, mystics, stigmatists, and popes.

This book will be useful when members of my Secular Franciscan fraternity choose patron saints at the beginning of the year. We’ll have quite a few new names to choose from and new saints to get to know.

Teens preparing for Confirmation would do well to check out this book; the biographies of each saint are brief (averaging 2 pages) and include a quote (usually a quote from the saint).

I enjoyed this peek into the “who’s who of the Franciscan family” and flagged several saints for further study. If you like to learn about saints and you’re particularly interested in Franciscans, The Franciscan Saints is an excellent starting point.

Barb's Book shelf blog title


Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: God Is Not Fair and Other Reasons for Gratitude

Daniel Horan, OFM’s new book, God Is Not Fair and Other Reasons for Gratitude (Franciscan Media, 2017), is a collection of essays exploring how “the very core of Christianity appears foolish in the world.” (p. 3) This makes it Franciscan to the core: St. Francis of Assisi spent his life as a “fool for Christ” in his quest to fully live the Gospel.

God is not fair

My favorite chapters were the ones that concerned St. Francis and Franciscans. The essay titled “What’s Not-So-Special About Franciscan Spirituality” was a comfort to this Franciscan; I may work with words for my livelihood, but it’s tough to put into words exactly what Franciscan spirituality is about! “The Franciscan tradition advances only the Gospel in a way that is at the same time shockingly simple and incredibly difficult.” (p. 41)

The second section of the book, “Gospel and Culture,” is an exploration of how we can go about living the Gospel. It’s not easy, and it’s going to be different for every person–but it’s a question we all must seek to answer.

I had to read almost half this book before finding the reason for the title, but when I got there, the central premise behind the book became clear after the author considered two of Jesus’ more difficult parables regarding fairness, the story of the Prodigal Son and the one about the vineyard owner who paid all workers the same wage regardless of what time they started.

It is difficult for us to accept the gratuitous love, generosity and mercy of God. We hold one another accountable to rules of fairness, sometimes even baptized in the water of religion, but it is not the radical unfairness of God; it is not the radical justice that is equivalent to God’s infinite mercy. (p. 61)

Father Horan and I do not see eye-to-eye on many matters. I knew that before picking up this book, and I wondered a bit what I could learn from someone with whom I disagree on certain subjects. A few statements made in the book reinforced my disagreement with Father Horan–but those are specifics, and I don’t think they’re deal-breakers. Ultimately, this book is written for people seeking to model their lives more closely to the Gospel standard. While the author and I approach this differently, we still aim for the same target.
Barb's Book shelf blog title
This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book by the publisher, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

Copyright 2017 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

#WorthRevisit: Franciscan Crown

I’m looking back at a CatholicMom.com post explaining the Franciscan way to pray the Rosary.

Here’s a how-to for my favorite variation of the Rosary:  the Franciscan Crown.

It’s got that name because, according to legend, the Blessed Mother asked an aspiring Franciscan friar to weave her a crown of prayers.

While the Dominicans are credited with the creation of the Rosary, Franciscans also have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother:

In his devotion to the Mother of Christ, the Franciscan, who is united with and transformed into Christ, makes Mary his own Mother. How can it be otherwise, for it was Mary who begot Christ, and hence it is Mary who has given the True Life to the Franciscan. Mary is our Mother because she is the Mother of the Head of the Mystical Body, of which we are members — she is the one Mother of the One Christ. Thus Francis “embraced the Mother of Jesus with an indescribable love, because she made the Lord of Majesty our brother.”

My favorite
My favorite “pocket Rosary.” Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch! Get yours at Mary Devotions, an Etsy shop.

The Franciscan Crown is a 7-decade Rosary based on the 7 Joys of Mary. If you don’t have a 7-decade set, use your regular Rosary and just backtrack a bit. Unlike the regular Rosary, you start at the medal and end at the cross.

For each decade, pray 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and 1 Gloria.

Here are the meditations for each decade. The Scripture verses and prayers are optional; if I’m out and about I just pray the 7 joys without the Scriptures.

  1. The first Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Annunciation. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” May I become your humble servant, Lord.
  2. The second Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Visitation. “Rising up, Mary went into the hill country and saluted her cousin Elizabeth. Grant us true love of neighbor, Lord.
  3. The third Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Birth of Jesus and the Adoration of the Magi. “She brought forth her first-born son…and laid him in a manger.” Give us true poverty of spirit, Lord.
  4. The fourth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Presentation and Purification. “They carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…as it is written in the law of the Lord.” Help me obey all just laws.
  5. The fifth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. “Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him.” May I never lose you through serious sin, Lord.
  6. The sixth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Resurrection of Jesus. “The Lord is not here; He is risen.” May we share your glory, Lord.
  7. The seventh Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at her Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation. “A woman clothed with the sun; upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Mary, may we share your crown of eternal life.
After you have prayed the seven decades, pray two more Hail Marys to make a total of 72–honoring the 72 years of Mary’s life (according to legend). Then, for the intentions of the Holy Father, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Gloria.
Franciscan Crown FI
You don’t have to be a Franciscan to pray this beautiful devotion. In this Month of the Rosary, give it a try!

worth revisit

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!

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Small Success: Perfect Joy!

Thursdays at CatholicMom.com begin with a look at the past week’s Small Successes!

On Monday, the Secular Franciscans celebrated the Transitus of St. Francis, marking his passage from earthly life to eternal life in heaven. It is a solemn moment with a prayer service that includes readings from a biography of the saint along with the Gospel, Psalms, prayer and music.

Transitus of St. Francis @franciscanmom
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS. All rights reserved.

I spent the day Monday putting out all kinds of fires, some related to the Transitus and others completely separate from it, but all serving as a distraction from what was about to take place. From missing copies of the readings to sheet music that didn’t include all the verses to a soccer practice that ran late and a request by someone I respect that I do something that would compromise my integrity (I declined), by midafternoon I was DONE and tweeted:

Via @franciscanmom
Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.

In the end it all turned out fine, at least as far as the Transitus was concerned. We were happy with the turnout and participation. The parts of the song I messed up because I was trying to track lyrics and guitar chords for a song with 7 verses went unnoticed by the assembly, who knew the song so well and sang so enthusiastically that I was basically drowned out.

As we enjoyed light refreshments and conversation after the Transitus, I observed to one of my fellow Franciscans that it had been a crazy day. She said the same (she was on the other end of the missing-readings problem, and had other things happening as well.) Later she emailed me and said that she remembers this happening every year. All The Things seem to go wrong on Transitus day.

Here we are, trying to remember one of the holiest people who ever lived, someone after whose example we wish to model our lives, and things are just a mess.

Maybe that’s what St. Francis meant when he talked about Perfect Joy.

Small Success dark blue outline 800x800

Share your Small Successes at CatholicMom.com by joining the linkup in the bottom of today’s post. No blog? List yours in the comments box!

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This month I’m joining all the cool kids in the #Write31Days adventure! I didn’t pick a keyword or a theme, because just getting something written for all 31 days is challenge enough for me right now.

Worth Revisit: The Pope Redefines Saint Francis

On September 17, Franciscans celebrated the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis. That’s what Francis is really all about–uniting himself so closely to the Gospel life that his own body bore the same wounds as Christ on the cross.

"Worth Revisit: The Pope Redefines St. Francis" by Barb Szyszkiewicz @franciscanmom
License [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Ten years ago, then-Pope Benedict XVI spoke about who St. Francis really was. Here’s my reflection, written September 14, 2006, on an article from Chiesa News.

He’s not just that guy in the birdbaths. He’s not some enviro-hippie.

Benedict XVI said he wanted to correct the “abuses” and “betrayals” that distort the true character of Saint Francis. And to recall the false view of Saint Francis, Benedict XVI needed just two words: “environmentalist” and “pacifist.” …The truth of Saint Francis – the pope emphasizes – is his “radical choice of Christ,” the conversion awakened in him by the words of the crucified Jesus: ‘Go, rebuild my house.’

It’s not about peace protests. It’s not about ecology. It’s not about blessing our household pets.

Being Franciscan is about conversion. All the rest is incidental.

In the spiritual travail that the young Francis was living through, he perceived these words of vocation and mission as being in the first place an invitation to carry out completely the conversion that had already begun, making his own the concern and plans of Christ for his Church.

So my priority, as a Franciscan, is to ask myself how I can better turn myself toward God, and serve Him in my daily life. That’s what conversion is about–turning TOWARD God.

worth revisit

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!

#WorthRevisit: Pray the Franciscan Crown Rosary

Since the month of May is a time when we honor the Blessed Mother, I’m looking back at a CatholicMom.com post explaining my favorite Franciscan way to pray the Rosary.

Here’s a how-to for my favorite variation of the Rosary:  the Franciscan Crown.

It’s got that name because, according to legend, the Blessed Mother asked an aspiring Franciscan friar to weave her a crown of prayers.

While the Dominicans are credited with the creation of the Rosary, Franciscans also have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother:

In his devotion to the Mother of Christ, the Franciscan, who is united with and transformed into Christ, makes Mary his own Mother. How can it be otherwise, for it was Mary who begot Christ, and hence it is Mary who has given the True Life to the Franciscan. Mary is our Mother because she is the Mother of the Head of the Mystical Body, of which we are members — she is the one Mother of the One Christ. Thus Francis “embraced the Mother of Jesus with an indescribable love, because she made the Lord of Majesty our brother.”

My favorite "pocket Rosary." Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch!
My favorite “pocket Rosary.” Durable. Washable. And with a Franciscan touch! Get yours at Mary Devotions, an Etsy shop.

The Franciscan Crown is a 7-decade Rosary. If you don’t have a 7-decade set, use your regular Rosary and just backtrack a bit. Unlike the regular Rosary, you start at the medal and end at the cross.

For each decade, pray 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and 1 Gloria.

Here are the meditations for each decade:

  1. The first Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Annunciation. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.” May I become your humble servant, Lord.
  2. The second Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Visitation. “Rising up, Mary went into the hill country and saluted her cousin Elizabeth. Grant us true love of neighbor, Lord.
  3. The third Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Birth of Jesus and the Adoration of the Magi. “She brought forth her first-born son…and laid him in a manger.” Give us true poverty of spirit, Lord.
  4. The fourth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Presentation and Purification. “They carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…as it is written in the law of the Lord.” Help me obey all just laws.
  5. The fifth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple. “Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him.” May I never lose you through serious sin, Lord.
  6. The sixth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Resurrection of Jesus. “The Lord is not here; He is risen.” May we share your glory, Lord.
  7. The seventh Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at her Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation. “A woman clothed with the sun; upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” Mary, may we share your crown of eternal life.
After you have prayed the seven decades, pray two more Hail Marys to make a total of 72–honoring the 72 years of Mary’s life (according to legend). Then, for the intentions of the Holy Father, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Gloria.
You don’t have to be a Franciscan to pray this beautiful devotion.

worth revisit

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!

#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!

OFS-extraction-of-saints

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

 

#WorthRevisit: Baby Jesus Wore a Blue Snowsuit

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Baby Jesus wore a blue snowsuit with a faux-fur-trimmed hood.
All the Angels had puffy coats under their robes.
The Shepherds sported blue jeans and white Nikes.
The pastor contributed his own “capuch” and a deacon’s stole to complete Francis’ costume.

Mary had a kidney transplant three weeks ago.
The Sheep was played by a three-year-old boy who had to be persuaded to take off the Eagles hat underneath his furry-eared cap.
Due to a shortage of teenage boys, there were almost Two Kings instead of Three.

Mary’s pony stopped along the path to Bethlehem to graze on some leftover autumn leaves.
The goat butted the Shepherds and the Sheep.
Most of the choir members had colds and couldn’t sing.
We were right next to a Dumpster.

It was a beautiful sunny day.
There were so many people we didn’t have enough chairs.
But there were plenty of cookies and lots of hot cocoa.
All the children played their parts wonderfully.
The pastor sang with the choir, and at the end everyone sang “Joy to the World.”

Today we reflected on the miracle of Greccio and the miracle of Bethlehem.
We were thankful for our warm clothing. Baby Jesus probably wasn’t so lucky.
We were thankful for the children who eagerly donned angel wings and shepherds’ robes.
We were thankful for a young girl’s new lease on life thanks to a generous organ donor.
We were thankful for the cookies, and the cocoa, and the fellowship shared around some pots of delicious homemade soup after it was all over.
We were–and are–thankful for the miracle that brought us all here in the first place.

worth revisit

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!

Monday Recap: October 19

Monday Recap-What I've been writing

At CatholicMom.com:

Ali Series by Christine MarciniakBook Notes: Christine Marciniak’s Ali Series. I interviewed the author of a series of books for teen girls that doesn’t include vampires, the occult or a desolate post-apocalyptic future.

Franciscan Crown FIFranciscan Crown: A Different Way to Pray the Rosary. Did you know that there are many ways to pray the Rosary? Here’s a how-to on praying the Franciscan Crown Rosary.

At Cook and Count:

Roasted Asparagus (3) T CRoasted Asparagus. Cookie sheets are not just for cookies anymore! They’re just the right size to roast vegetables in the oven. Here’s an easy recipe for oven-roasted asparagus.

Greek steak pitas C TOn the Grill: Greek-Seasoned Steak. One of the best steak marinades we’ve tried so far. This works in pita sandwiches or (if you’re not as lazy as I am) for shish kebabs.