Thursday, April 23, 2009

Open Space

“Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever.” (Dan 3: 57)

“Most High, all-powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor, and all blessings.
To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
And no man is worthy to mention Your name.
Praised be You, my Lord, with all your creatures,
Especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.” (Canticle of Brother Sun, St. Francis of Assisi)

Yesterday, April 22nd, since it was Earth Day, I decided to walk to my office via the Rose Kennedy Memorial Greenway. For those who know Boston, MA, where the Greenway is now, once stood an elevated highway, known as the Southeast Expressway. It was a mass of rusted steel girders and pavement that sliced through the city, separating the North End form the rest of Boston. Then came something called “The Big Dig.” The Expressway was placed underground, the steel girders and pavement was torn down, and in its place is this ribbon of green grass, young trees, shrubs, flowers and plazas. The difference in the area is amazing, the open space, the sunlight and blue sky; it makes you think you are in a different city. All I could think of as I was walking was the above quotes from the Book of Daniel, and from the writings of St. Francis.

Of course, as soon as you get open space, there are people who want to build something there. There are groups who want a memorial statue put up, others want museums, outdoor marketplaces, all worthy ideas, I am sure, but what is it about humanity,, that we cannot let a piece of earth lie fallow, let it just Francis of Assisi once was visiting a hermitage that had a garden that provided vegetables for the friars. He begged Brother Gardener to give a small patch of the garden to the wild flowers and grasses, because they had a right to some of the earth also.

This started me thinking also that we never seem let our minds be empty, either, of thoughts, letting us be still, open. We are always crowding it with the contents of books, blogs (heh), twitters and e-mails; music so loud that it drowns out the sounds of nature, drowns out the whispers of the Spirit. So let’s go out into the open, let’s us be still and let the Sun shine in, or rather, let the Son shine in.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

From CNS: Franciscans Gather at Assisi

From Catholic News Service comes this:

Franciscans reflect on relevance of charism 800 years after founding

ASSISI, Italy (CNS) -- Brown-, gray- and black-hooded robes rustled, knotted white cords swung rhythmically, and sandaled feet crunched gravel. The soft sounds of labored breathing could also be heard as several hundred Franciscan friars from all over the world wound their way up steep hills, passing wheat fields and olive groves while on a two-hour penitential procession to the tomb of their founder, St. Francis of Assisi. The processing friars were just some of the 1,800 Friars Minor, Conventual Franciscans, Capuchins and Third Order Regular Franciscans attending an April 15-18 gathering celebrating the 800th anniversary of papal approval of the Franciscan rule. It was the first time that many representatives of the four main Franciscan branches had come together in Assisi. Participants followed in the footsteps of their founder with many activities centered around or near the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, which houses the Portiuncula chapel -- the small church where St. Francis experienced his conversion.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Sad Day of Rememberance

“Why, God, have you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger burn against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your flock that you gathered of old,
the tribe you redeemed as your very own.
Remember Mount Zion where you dwell.” (Psalm 74: 1-2)

I take a train to North Station in Boston MA, and from there I have been walking to my office in the downtown area. My journey takes me to a memorial near the Quincy Market area. It is a series of glass towers, each about of 2 to 3 stories tall, with a walk way going through them. The towers have a resemblance to chimney stacks, made all the more real by steam that comes up through grates at their base. It is a memorial to those who perished during the Holocaust. Each tower is for one of the major death camps, on each of the towers are engraved the identification numbers the Nazis branded on the wrists of the Jewish inmates. At one end of the walkway is engraved a quote of former President Eisenhower, who was the supreme commander of allied forces in Europe during WWII. He is quoted in saying that he had to come and see the death camps, no matter how much the experience sickened him, because he wanted to be sure that there was a least person who gives witness to the truth, the reality of the tragedy, should anyone say that the Holocaust was not so bad.

April 21st is the day when the world is called to remember the Holocaust, the Shoah, to pray for the victims of the past, and unfortunately, the victims of present genocides. Pray that the Spirit of God will dispel the darkness that can seize a persons’ heart and let such tragedies occur. Pray that the world will have the courage and the will to act and never let this happen again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Birth of a Movement

“When God gave me some friars, there was no one to tell me what I should do; but the Most High himself made it clear to me that I must live the life of the Gospel. I had this written down briefly and simply and his holiness the Pope confirmed it for me.” (Testament of St, Francis)

“The Franciscan family, as one among many spiritual families raised up by the Holy Spirit in the Church, unites all members of the people of God – laity, religious, and priests – who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

In various ways and forms but in lifegiving union with each other, they intend to make present the charism of their common Seraphic Father in the life and mission of the Church.” (Art. 1, SFO Rule)

Let us go back in time, 800 years, to April 16th, 1209, to the Lateran Palace in Rome. Picture the papal throne room of Pope Innocent III, decorated with rich mosaics and tapestries. The Pope himself is seated on his throne, surrounded by his cardinals and other officials, all decked out in their rich robes. The hubbub in the room dies down as twelve men enter the chamber. These men are dressed in habits of rough cloth and are barefoot. They and their leader, Francis Bernardone of Assisi, has been the subject of much discussion and debate. The Pope has made his decision; he gives his approval to the little Rule of life Francis had written, using mostly phrases from the Gospel. And so the Order of Friars Minor is born.

However, it was more than just a new religious Order that came into being. Fathers David Flood, OFM, and Thadee Matura, OFM, in their book, describe it as “the Birth of a Movement.” From that small group of men, that little plant, three great branches have grown; Friars, Poor Clares, and Seculars. Each branch made up of people, inspired by Saint Francis, who strive to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in their times, each in their own unique way.

During this 800th anniversary year, let us read again the stories of Francis’ life, read and reflect on his writings and be inspired again to go out into the world and proclaim in words and example the Good News.