ADVENT WITH SAINT FRANCIS

If Saint Francis Were Here

By Mary Esther, SFO

If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us that Jesus said what he meant
and meant what he said;
that the Gospel was intended to be lived,
not just to be read, ignored, and forgotten.
If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us that to follow the poor Christ
is to share with those who are in need.
He would tell us that we are to simply our lives,
so that those less fortunate can have basic necessities.
He would remind us that this is God’s justice.
If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us that he liked Christmas best of all
because that is the day when God bent low
to walk in our skin,
and to show us how much he really wants us for himself:
to share his love and his happiness.
He would tell us to really celebrate Christmas!
If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us that war is not holy,
that it is not good for anyone,
and that war does not bring peace.
He would tell us about his meeting
with the Muslim Sultan of Egypt,
how they both desired peace
and how they became friends.
If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us about the lepers.
He would tell us that those who we think
are the lowest members of society
are also God’s children,
and that we must accept them
as we would accept Christ.
And he would tell us that this is not easy!
If Saint Francis were here,
he would tell us that all creatures
are our brothers and sisters
because we have the same Father.
He would tell us to respect and care
for the water, the air, the wild creatures,
the land, the sea, and each other.
And he would tell us to sing, to sing a lot,
because we are children of a Great King!

Source: “The Cord” (October-December 2010)

A Prayer for the Intercession of Saint Francis

Brother Francis,
when the times were growing cold,
God sent you into the world
as a witness to God’s warm love
for all people and all creation.
Intercede for us now, so that we may become
instruments of peace and healing
in our troubled world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!

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About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2017, in celebration of our 10th anniversary year, we will lead our annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults several opportunities to experience a Franciscan days of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at c.garvey@ymail.com. May the Lord give you peace!

Follow us on Twitter: @_AssisiProject

THE SERMON OF SAINT FRANCIS

cropped-snowheroIntroduction

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Portland, Maine, studied at Bowdoin College, and later taught at both Bowdoin and Harvard Colleges. Longfellow was the first American poet to translate Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” into English. And he is remembered as one of the finest and most popular poets in American literary history. In 1875, while struggling with the effects of celebrity and fame, Longfellow wrote a poem about Saint Francis of Assisi, one of human history’s great paragons of humility. In the poem, Francis preaches to a flock of birds about the things of God. Even though Francis doubts that the birds understand him, he finds peace and solace for himself. For modern readers like us, “The Sermon of Saint Francis” is a powerful reminder of God’s abiding care and love for all creatures both great and small.

The Sermon of Saint Francis
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Up soared the lark into the air,
a shaft of song, a winged prayer,
as if a soul released from pain
were flying back to heaven again.

Saint Francis heard: it was him
an emblem of the Seraphim;
the upward motion of the fire,
the light, the heat, the heart’s desire.

Around Assisi’s convent gate
the birds, God’s poor who cannot wait,
from moor and mere and darksome wood
come flocking for their dole of food.

‘O brother birds,’ Saint Francis said,
‘Ye come to me and ask for bread,
but not with bread alone to-day
shall ye be fed and sent away.

‘Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds,
with manna of celestial words;
not mine, though mine they seem to be,
not mine, though they be spoken through me.

‘Oh, doubly are ye bound to praise
the great Creator in your lays;
he giveth you your plumes of down,
your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.

‘He giveth you your wings to fly
and breathe a purer air on high,
and careth for you everywhere,
who for yourselves so little care!’

With flutter of swift wings and songs
together rose the feathered throngs,
and singing scattered far apart;
deep peace was in Saint Francis’ heart.

He knew not if the brotherhood
his homily had understood;
he only knew that to one ear
the meaning of his words was clear.

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Almighty God and Father,
you made Saint Francis of Assisi
Christ-like in his poverty and humility.
Help us to walk in his ways,
so that with joy and love,
we may follow Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!

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About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2017, in celebration of our 10th anniversary year, we will lead our annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults several opportunities to experience a Franciscan days of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at c.garvey@ymail.com. May the Lord give you peace!

Follow us on Twitter: @_AssisiProject

DISMANTLING RACISM

cropped-turkson.jpgA Word of Encouragement
By Cardinal Peter Turkson

Almost thirty years ago, the American Catholic Bishops stated: “Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it means an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts, as well as in the structure of our society.” Echoing and expanding this teaching, Pope Francis most emphatically condemns the evil of racism in the world today: “The problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of their religious convictions or ethnic identity, the well-being of society as a whole is endangered, and each one of us must feel affected.”

When the Zulu people of South Africa greet someone, they say ‘Sawubona’ which means: “I see you.” The one being greeted responds with ‘Sikhona’ which means: “I am here.” Then the greeter ends by affirming ‘Ubuntu’ which means: “We are here, and so I am.” Let me contrast this remarkable form of exchange with the experience of racism. Its effect is to render people invisible; and from that follows the denial of human dignity, then loss of identity, then personal despair, then social and political distrust. Racism unleashes a host of ills that have penetrated into every facet of our lives.

Racism excludes its victims from the basic resources they need. Among these are decent housing, good education, jobs for those who can work, upbringing for the young and care for the elderly. Such barriers are not imagined. They are all too real; and the enormous injustice and suffering they cause cry out for them to be torn down and overcome. In his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln eloquently bemoaned “all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil.” The suffering is found on both sides of the barriers: among those who harbor hatred in their hearts and minds, and those who must endure its impact. And it does not dissipate quickly. You know well what the legacy of slavery has meant for the United States of America and other countries marked in such tragic ways. All peoples must restore and preserve the fundamental bonds of mutuality, brotherhood and sisterhood, that God intends for us.

The healing of racism begins in our own hearts. Imagine how our hearts would be shaped if everyone learned to greet each other in the Zulu manner! It invites us to self-examination. How often do I overlook people who are different? Do my biases cloud my ability to full see another person in his or her full human dignity? Admitting my failure to see the other as human is to begin the struggle to vanquish unconscious bias and interpersonal racism. In his encyclical, “God Is Love”, Pope Benedict XVI teaches us that: “Jesus’s program is a ‘heart which sees.’ This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly.” Those who are not fully seen are marginalized, excluded from the circle of human concern. Pope Francis says that love brings them back in. He says: “From charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world. The medievals say: ‘Where there is love, there is the ability to see.’ Only by remaining in God’s love will we know how to understand and love those around us.”

Education plays a fundamental role. Children can readily accept differences. They can also be taught to hate. Perhaps you recall a short song from “South Pacific” with these terrible lines: “You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late. Before you are six or seven or eight. To hate all the people your relatives hate. You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

The effective dismantling of racism must begin within. The fundamental belief that each of us is created in God’s image is essential. Such conversion must then extend into laws and public policies and into systems of education, health care, employment, and housing. This interior and exterior healing must begin now: to stem the rising tide of despair among the young, many of whom doubt that they will have a place in the societies of today and tomorrow. It is high time to expand opportunities for all people of color, who for generations have been on the receiving end of such grinding racism. In his encyclical, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis teaches: “We need to strengthen the conviction that we are one single human family.” Allow me to suggest some possible ways to do so:

Let us further explore what our faith says about racism, and as we examine our consciences, let us pray for pardon and reconciliation. Let us deepen our understanding of racism as one of the drivers of poverty and systemic violation of basic human rights within the United States and beyond our borders. Let us work to remove the personal and systemic barriers of racism that prevent us from seeing the brothers and sisters whom God created equal in his image and likeness. Finally, in the words of Pope Francis: “Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding, and mutual forgiveness.” With this blessing, may God abundantly bless you and every effort of truth-telling, inclusion, and reconciliation until racism is no more.

About Cardinal Turkson

His Eminence, Peter Cardinal Turkson (b. 1948), serves as Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which was created by Pope Francis to promote international policies that provide care the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the unemployed, the excluded and marginalized, along with the victims of violence, war, slavery, and torture. Born and raised in Ghana, Cardinal Turkson served as Archbishop of Cape Coast from 1993 until 2003; and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 2009 until 2017. These remarks, entitled “A Word of Encouragement”, were delivered on March 3, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama.

A Prayer for Peace

O Lord our God,
in your mercy and kindness,
no thought of ours is left unnoticed,
no desire ignored.
You have proven that blessings abound
when we fall on our knees in prayer,
and so we turn to you in our hour of need.
Surrounded by violence and cries for justice,
we hear your voice telling us what is required:
‘Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).’
Fill us with your mercy,
so that we, in turn, may be merciful to others.
Strip away pride and suspicion and racism
so that we may seek peace and justice in our communities.
Strengthen our hearts
so that they beat only to the rhythm of your holy will.
Flood our path with your light
as we walk humbly toward a future
filled with encounter and unity.
Be with us, O Lord, in our efforts,
for only by the power of your grace
can we progress toward justice and virtue.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Saint Clare of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!

Learn More: USCCB’s Pastoral Letter on Racism (1979)

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About Us

Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit that seeks to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi. Our mission is to serve the Church and to give witness to the Good News of Christ through formation and prayer, pilgrimage and retreat, and educating others about our way of life. In 2017, in celebration of our 10th anniversary year, we will lead our annual fall pilgrimage to Assisi; meet monthly for Mass, faith formation, and faith sharing; and offer adults several opportunities to experience a Franciscan-style days of prayer and reflection. For more information about the Assisi Project and upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at c.garvey@ymail.com. May the Lord give you peace!

Follow us on Twitter: @_AssisiProject