Happy Advent all!
One wonderful aspect of being Minister of our local fraternity is being included in the Formation Team; RELEARNING a few aspects of Franciscanism which can be lost in all the tumultuous activities of our lives, and enjoying once again the possibilities for my own growth and understanding of our awesome place in our church and society. What I’m sharing with you today comes straight from our FUN Manuel (For Up to Now). During the Advent and Christmas seasons let us contemplate how much the Lord loves us all. God Bless you and yours during this Holy season
“Blessed John Duns Scotus wrote, the Franciscan School moved away from atonement-based theology, which had become the primary theology of the Dominican school. After many years of debate, the Dominican based approach would become the most widely held theology within the Church, though the position of the Franciscan School as secondary remained and still remains today a fully accepted Tradition or alternate theology within the church, so much so that many of our Roman Pontiffs became members of the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS).
Scotus will take the final step in establishing the Franciscan approach/school and our approach to God by explaining that the Incarnation was always the primary goal for all of God’s creation, a plan that could not be changed or altered by any of mankind’s activities.
It was the desire of God to embrace and in turn be embraced, and this desire, not the sin of man, was the reason for the coming of Jesus, the fulfillment of the intention that became creation. Bl. John Scotus expresses his understanding in his work, the ‘Primacy of Christ’ the theological foundation that stems from the lived reality of Francis of Assisi.
Scotus places Jesus and the Incarnation firmly at the absolute core of Christian belief. Not starting with the need for a sin offering as we still do today, (we Franciscans so often start here too) but at a beginning based on a total and completely free expression of God’s love and otherness. Surely we don’t deny that Jesus redeemed us and died because of sin, but Jesus was always God’s first intention or master plan and would have become incarnate (taking on our humanity) regardless of sin or anything else.
Jesus came to show us the depths of God’s love and desire to love us, and to offer us the invitation to be loved by us in return. He gave us a true model of how to live life through love and respect for each other.
Jesus passion and death show us that God loves us so much there is nothing He would hold back on our behalf. Such complete, unconditional and steadfast love on God’s part is the wonderful journey we come to understand, through Scripture, through community and through living authentic lives that seek Jesus.
Scotus affirms that Jesus is the reason, not just for the season as the popular slogan proclaims, but for the existence of all creation. All was made for Him and will return to Him (as we read in the prologue to the Gospel of John 1:1-18).
It is through God’s choice and total freedom that Jesus fills the role of Savior and Redeemer, but God was never constrained or forced to the cross in order to complete the act of salvation. God could have chosen any method including simply willing salvation. Instead He chose the cross, not from necessity, but to demonstrate the reality and depth of free unconditional Love.
In this unconditional Love the welfare of the other is always the central focus of the love. Nothing is held back whether through God’s initial self-emptying communication(Incarnation) or the absolute demonstration of self-giving and sacrificial love.All is freely given up for you.”
Pax et Bonum and Merry Christmas to you all,
Debbie, OFS Min.
Patricia Mihalic Doyle, OFS/SA attended the SA retreat this year and she has begun to share with us…. The end of September we held our annual Day of Recollection at the home of a friend of our Minister Debbie. We are grateful for this as the old venue we have had for years is no longer available to us. Though there were multiple sharings, the focus was on The Rule. We also finally had our Franciscan Tea. It was another wonderful day. Going forward, we will bring art supplies and money for gas cards for Redemption Ridge – home to trafficked individuals… Thank you to our Council for preparing the Annual Report and taking care of the “nuts and bolts” as well as enlivening us. We look forward to beginning a new on-going formation book…. Ongoing prayers and support for our brothers and sisters in Paradise, CA and Alaska who have been devastated by natural disasters.
Minister Debbie Wasche officially accepts Bill Watkins as a Friend of Francis
Formation Director Ralph Washe
Blanche Richman, OFS (on right) with daughter Colleen Brown
We have finally finished Eager To Love and have to say goodbye to another wonderful book. Thank you Fr. Richard Rohr!
“I believe that the Gospel itself, and the Francisan vision of the Gospel, is primarily communicated by highly symbolic human lives that operate as Prime Attractors: through actions visibly done in love; by a nonviolent and humble, simple, but liberated lifestyle; by a happy identification with the poor and the excluded of the world; by obvious happiness itself; and by concrete and visible people who ‘give others reasons for spiritual joy’ – as Francis said when he rubbed two sticks together to play his own imaginary violin and as Pope Francis did when he washed the feet of prisoners, women, and Muslims. When such people then speak or act, their words burn and their actions convict! Surely this is what Jesus meant when he told us to ‘shout the message from the housetops’ and to be ‘a light on a lampstand’, or to be ‘leaven’ and ‘salt.’ He knew that holiness is passed on through contagion, and from inside, and seldom by simple, ‘correct matter and form,’ or any juridical criteria for validity as most Catholic and Orthodox priests were trained in sacrament class. Transformed people transform people. Francis and Clare were quite simply transformed people – who still continue to deeply change us today……We are thus attracted forward.”
Blessed Mary of sinless nature
greeted Gabriel who was Heaven sent.
To find the one that God made pure
to ask her willing Holy consent
to be the mother of our dear Christ
and raise Him on the earth
So He could pay the ultimate price
and she said yes to the glorious birth.
For years we sit in painful dark
our wounded souls ache for the calm.
With sacred sacraments Heaven sent
our hearts are lifted with Jesus’ balm.
He who wears the crown of forgiveness
has cleansed us by His love,
has sent the blessed mercy
from His throne up above.
The incarnation of our Holy Lord
into a human man,
Two natures in one person
was Heavenly Father’s plan.
To give light upon this world of sin
the Son of God appears,
He paid the price with his passion
to lessen all our fears.
A few Sundays ago our Sacred Heart pastor, Fr. Ken Sampson, shared a wonderful story about the Christus sculpture in Denmark’s national cathedral, which at the time was a Catholic cathedral. A Danish sculptor named Bertel Thorvelsen (1789-1838), was commissioned to create Christ the King. One of the versions of the story says that when the sculpture was nearly done and Thorvelsen was just about satisfied with Christ’s arms raised in victory, with chin held high and chest puffed out, something changed. Apparently, very close to the unveiling of his commission and for some unknown reason, the clay had softened in the night. The Christ’s arms that were once raised now had come down low with palms outstretched. The once victorious attitude of the chin and head was now bowed down. It was an incredible change. Thorvelsen felt this was from divine inspiration/intervention, and finished the sculpture in this new posture of humility and approachability. He etched the stone at the bottom with “Come Unto Me”.
I found this to be a miraculous, beautiful story and very Franciscan. Francis was utterly in love with the poverty, and humility of God. Christmas, for him and us, is the primary feast of God (God!) come down to us as a vulnerable infant in virtual poverty. We can meditate on this all our lives… And even though most people identify more with either the kenotic (self-emptying Christ who comes humbly – “though he was in the form of God … Phil: Chapter 2:5-9) or the triumphant Christ (he is risen and all the world shall be his footstool), I think we as Franciscans identify most with verses such as the Beatitudes, Matthew 25:35-46 (When did we see you hungry, Lord?), the Sermon on the Mount, and the washing of the apostles feet, etc. -the kenotic. Yet the implication is that the Incarnation and kenotic life of Jesus reveal Love going the distance through to the triumphant Christ! Both views of course are correct, and we know through a mirror dimly the whole Paschal mystery. We can meditate on this, too, all of our lives. Still, Francis seems to be telling us that if Jesus taught and lived this way, then so should we – and happily so!
Here we begin in Advent again. I hope it is a graced time for us all. Dr. James Finley says that “all renewal is a return to fidelity to the original fire”. As followers of Jesus the Christ in the way of St. Francis of Assisi, let us ponder Francis’ fiery love for the utter poverty of the face of God with us who calls each of us to “Come Unto Me” – even from a stable in a town that literally means “house of bread”. May the star of Bethlehem give each of our “mirrors” a little more clarity this beautiful season.
Happy Adventing and Merry Christmas!
I have been a midwife in this village nigh to twenty years now.
By oil lamp I have drawn many little ones into their mother’s arms.
I have seen their joy and their pain at this new life they push into the world.
I have watched the proud and stricken fathers as they stand helpless at this
one door they cannot enter.
But one night stands clearly above all others.
It was the time of the census when the young couple
came to my husband’s inn, and like the other latecomers we had to turn them away.
So many sons and daughters of Bethlehem had come home, there was not
room for all.
But she looked so weary and so very close to her time that we cleared
a little space
for them in the stable hoping to keep them warm for the night.
That very night a knock at our door told us the child would not wait.
I found my way down the dark path,
him leading me by candlelight.
I hope this birth goes well;
she is young but strong.
“Do not be afraid,” I say.
“I’m not,” she reassures me, ” this child knows what to do.”
She has seen birth and knows what to expect,
staying calm though wincing, then crying softly when the pains increase.
I hold her hands and show her how to breath and how to relax deeply
between the pains gathering strength for the next one.
I look for signs of the child’s descent; these first babies take so long.
She pushes and the child is here, covered with blood and water, this
fine and healthy boy.
I clean the mouth and nose, he cries and his color changes from blue to ruddy.
I place him on his mother’s chest, cord still attached and she draws him near.
He sighs and suckles, the cord is tied and cut.
“We have a new man,” I say. “What will be his name?”
She says as if in a prayer, “God is with us.”
I look at her shining face and wonder at the terrible beauty of our
entry into this world.
She is confident as she swaddles him, her husband at her side.
I am no longer needed and I make my way back home.
How bright the stars are tonight!
A day passes and I pay the new mother a visit.
A crowd is in the stable. The shepherds have come down from the mountain,
their faces aglow with excitement. I take a young man aside and ask if
he is a relative of theirs.
He whispers in my ear a story of angels and a message of the Messiah.
“Drunken shepherds”, I think eyeing them carefully.This ordinary child,
this ordinary mother. Would not the Messiah be greeted by greater folk
than a poor midwife and some shepherds?
I walk away wondering. If this is the Messiah, then I held him so soon
from God’s arms to mine.
I laughed at the thought that God might need me and lie as an infant
The mother smiles at me.
It is difficult to remember the exact date of this happening – the best that can be said is that it occurred in the prior century. The years are not that many but the acceleration of social and cultural change seems to elongate the time making it seem more distant.
As a chronic procrastinator there were a few last minute items to be purchased for Christmas. It was off to Barnes and Noble. The store was packed, overnight delivery had not be developed to the art form it is today, and the store seemed to be over-populated with men. Is there a gender link between males and procrastination? The Religious section was my destination, but all the aisles were packed so that route was indirect.
As I headed down one aisle coming toward me was a Jewish father and his son. In relating this story a frequent question is how was it apparent the man was Jewish? Well…initially the yarmulke worn by the father was a dead giveaway. I smiled, he smiled in return and I wished him a “Merry Christmas” and he responded, “Happy Chanukah.” We passed and as I turned down another aisle, I had a Holy Spirit moment.
That was extraordinary in itself, but I was additionally overwhelmed with the knowledge that it was not so many years in the past that that exchange carried the potential for a death sentence. I wanted to meet this man and his son to share my feelings and thank him for all he had done to give meaning to our rapidly approaching holy days. As noted the store was packed and in spite of traversing several aisles and scanning the aisles that were crossed, they had disappeared.
Over the years as the debate dealing with the appropriate Christmas greeting to strangers has become more and more divisive and
strident, this story becomes more poignant. The teaching of that moment, decades ago in the aisles of Barnes and Noble still informs us. The greeting, “Merry Christmas” is not meant as an invitation of conversion to Christianity. The greeting, “Merry Christmas” is an expression of the love that is visited upon this earth to all people wiith the birth of Jesus. We are all asked to share that.
Merry Christmas to you and all your family.
Submitted by Patricia Mihalic Doyle, OFS/SA
I just attended Sacred Heart Parish’s Christmas Concert, 2018. It was lovely and very special as many of the songs were unfamiliar. One was, “Follow the Star.”
I was ready to write for this newsletter and started to think about stars.
In the Office we often pray from Daniel 3, “stars of heaven, bless the Lord; praise and exalt Him above all forever.”
In his Canticle, Francis offers – “Praise be to thee, my Lord, for Sister Moon and for the stars in heaven. Thou hast formed them shining + precious fair,” quoted from the ornate copy I purchased in Assisi.
Here, in the country, we see many more stars than in the city, growing up. My first son, Ray, would call me onto the deck, here, to look at the stars. It is a precious reminder of him. He noticed the stars. I was busy with life. A priest told me that he chose the better portion.
For each grandson I “name a star” for their 10th birthday. My 3rd grandson will be ten in February. I will still be thinking about stars then, and trying to name one.
For several years, in December, I have watched the video, The Star of Bethlehem, and often more than once. It is a documentary, which takes one on the journey of a lawyer, Rick Larson, who found himself needing to find out the facts about THE Star. He is a Christian. I worked with lawyers, so it was double interesting to me.
Mr. Larson’s research takes us to the Scriptures, and to science. He was aided by technology, a computer program. It allows a look at astronomical positioning for exact timing. He was able to find how, when and where THE Star appeared.
Mr. Larson proves it was a real astronomical event, which he had put to the ultimate test, a good lawyer, I’d say, and expresses with awe the “poetry” of God’s creativity in this celestial event.
I hope you will see this documentary.
I hope you will take time to smell the flowers in the day, and gaze at the stars at night, giving praise to God, with Francis, for the beauty of Creation. And, please do what you can to take care of our Mother Earth from where we see the stars.
7 Cecelia Rayburn, OFS
16 John Goold, OFS
SFRV Fraternity Members Profession Anniversaries
Blanche Richman, OFS (February 1, 1966)
Franciscan Calendar, USA
8 Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Franciscan Patron and Queen
12 Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron and Queen of the Americas
15 Blessed Mary Frances Schervier, virgin, III Order
25 The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
1 Solemnity of the Mother of God
3 Holy Name of Jesus
7 Blessed Angela of Foligno, religious, III Order
12 Blessed Bernard of Corleone, religious, I Order
14 Blessed Odoric of Pordenone, priest, I Order
16 Saints Berard, priest, and companions, protomartyrs, I Order
24 Saint Francis de Sales, bishop, doctor, Cord-bearer of Saint Francis
27 Saint Angela Merici, virgin of III Order
30 Saint Hyacinth of Mariscotti, virgin III Order
31 Saint John Bosco, priest, III Order
4 Saint Joseph of Leonissa, Priest, I Order
6 Saints Peter Baptist, Paul Miki and companions, martyrs, I and III Orders
7 Saint Colette, virgin, II Order
10 Saint Conrad of Piacenze, hermit, III Order