Franciscan documents

Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “Saint Francis of Assisi”

Obedience, Poverty and Chastity for All?


Brother Clark Berge SSF, The Vows Book: Anglican Teaching on the Vows of Obedience, Poverty and Chastity, CreateSpace 2014, 142 pages.  (from $AUD 18.20 online)

Reviewed by Ted Witham tssf
[Published in Anglican Messenger April 2014]

The late Abbot of New Norcia Dom Placid Spearritt OSB once claimed that Franciscans invented the idea of ‘vows’: Benedictines, he said, only had ‘promises’. I don’t know enough history or canon law to evaluate Abbot Placid’s statement, but as a Franciscan, I take the point that we should treat our promises with the least complication we can. Let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. (see Mt 5:37)

Brother Clark Berge, currently Minister General of the Society of Saint Francis, explores what it means to be a vowed person. All of us are vowed persons, as promises were made in our baptisms, and The Vows Book speaks to all Christians about the discipline and constraints inherent in following Christ. ‘The vows protect in us deep down the courage and strength to live for God,’ Br Clark writes, ‘to help God create a world we want to live in, a world of love.’

Vowed persons are counter-cultural. We have promised to make the world a different place than it is now. For those called to ‘give their lives to God in a special way’ as brothers and sisters in religious orders, the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity structure their lives to have the freedom to tell out the Good News.

Obedience means listening – listening to the Scriptures, to the Founders, to each other, to one’s inner voice and to nature. It means living as a responsible adult. Poverty is a free choice to follow Christ in a sharing lifestyle clarifying one’s social vision and helping those who are poor not through choice.

For members of religious orders like SSF chastity implies celibacy, which sets brothers and sisters free to love in new ways without the ties of family. Brother Clark is brutally honest about the difficulties of celibacy and gives practical advice on what to do with ‘sexy thoughts’.

Br Clark has printed his book in long thin columns. Each line of text has three or four words only in the style of the Catholic Workers’ Peter Maurin’s Easy Essays, making his ideas accessible to all members of the Society who have a very wide range of educational levels.

Br Clark’s ideas are also profitable for Tertiaries, as we too are vowed people, promising obedience, poverty and chastity as appropriate for our life-situation. He challenges us to use our promises as a framework to follow Jesus more closely, to find more joy in our life in Christ and to find more freedom in telling the Good News. These Franciscan values are ours too, and while our life-situations are not the same as the brothers and sisters of the First Order, our call to be Christ-like is.

It is challenging to be reminded to be responsible adults in listening to the wisdom of those around us and so learning to be more mature in our obedience. When we have so much materially our vow of poverty should cause us difficulty, and Br Clark asks us to re-consider if we are serious about sharing our resources with the whole community. Do I have the purity of heart I promised in my vow of chastity and what impact does that purity have on my ability to love as Christ would have me love?

Br Clark’s teaching about the vows may have started from his life-situation as a brother, but his wisdom, simplicity and depth is for all of us.

The Vows Book has a Foreword by Archbishop Roger Herft AM, Bishop Protector General of the Society of St Francis and the cover is graced by one of Br Clark’s own paintings, a reflection inspired by the words of Ephrem the Syrian on baptism. Br Clark’s book will help us say our ‘Yes’ with greater conviction and with joy and simplicity. It will help us bring our promises to life.

 

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Penance – both ways (presentation for the Day of Penitence 2013)


On the Day of Penitence 2013, I asked the question again, “Why did Francis of Assisi call us The Brothers and Sisters of Penance/Penitence?” In St Francis’ mind, what is penance, and how do we live up to the name? Aren’t we, as Franciscans, living a life of joy? Does penance have anything to do with joy – and humility and love?

I tried to answer these questions in the slide presentation here: Penance – both ways

St Francis’ life of penance

St Francis tells Br. Leo about the incident at Gubbio


 

My heart in my mouth I set off to meet Wolf.
He filled me with fear. He was Other.
I walked dark into the forest, so deeply looking
That at first I failed to see this Brother.

He appeared to be slinking around a tree.
In shadow, he looked all grey and black.
His eyes though lighted were lifeless,
And I froze, my feet bare on the mountain track.

I stared at the terrible empty eyes.
Brother Wolf still as a stone about to slide.
My eyes entered his and the space between melted.
We became one: my eyes and heart in Wolf’s inside.

He swallowed me whole. Yet I possessed him too.
Confused our hunger for love and humanity.
Crossed our praise of power in life and death.
Gubbio lay below in its simple vulnerability.

We stayed like that for time and a time,
Then slowly, gently in two came apart;
The same, yet different than before.
I burning with hunger and he humbled in heart.

I led him back like a lamb to the village.
Aflame, I rebuked him with voice and with prod.
“Share, show respect, live in harmony.”
The villagers rejoiced. I devoured God.

Ted Witham © 1996

I wrote this poem in 1996, but lately I have been thinking again about the paradoxes of redemption: wolves and food, need and encounter come to mind again in this telling of the story of the events near Gubbio.

*****

Published in Assisi, New York, Fall 2011, Spring 2012

Arthur Boyd's tapestry of St Francis as he embraces Brother Wolf

For those about to be Professed in the Third Order


SERMON FOR PROFESSIONS, NOVICING AND RENEWAL,

Western Australia Region, AD 2011

by Ted Witham tssf

A wonderful word in the New Testament is ‘homologia’, which means ‘profession’. In Hebrews 10:23, we are urged to ‘hold fast to the profession of our hope without wavering, because the One who promised is faithful.’ Earlier in Hebrews in 4:14, ‘Having then a great high priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold tightly to our profession.’

Today some of our number come to make Profession, and others of us will renew our Profession. We note that it is Profession of hope, and that Jesus, the Son of God, empowers us to make this Profession.

In the three centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus, there was an extraordinary process for new believers who wanted to make the great Profession that they had been filled with the resurrection faith. They underwent a two or three year preparation called the catechumenate, which involved learning about the faith, attending the Eucharist up until the Offertory, and being mentored by another Christian into works of charity. When Easter came after two or three years, the catechumens made their great Profession, their ‘homologia’ during their baptism by immersion in a great ceremony. They went down into the font naked (or dressed in a loin cloth) and were robed in white when they came up out of the waters.

I promise you that the Profession you make does not involve immersion baptism or even near nudity. And of course you have made your great Profession in your baptism and confirmation. Profession as a Tertiary does not replace baptism, but in it you effectively renew your baptismal promises. Listen to the words you will say:

I, N., give myself to our Lord Jesus Christ, to serve him for the rest of my life in company with my brothers and sisters in the Third Order of the Society of Saint Francis, seeking to spread the knowledge and love of Christ, to promote the spirit of love and harmony as the family of God and to live joyfully a life of simplicity and humble service after the example of Saint Francis.

A big Profession indeed; a public statement of an earnest and passionate response to a call from God.
Don’t under-estimate the power of this renewal. A friend of ours years ago had a charismatic experience, and he asked his fairly conservative parish priest if he could be baptised again. The priest answered, correctly, ‘No.’ And our friend kept asking. The priest could not give any other answer. Then the parish had its first Easter Vigil including the renewal of baptismal vows. Our friend was ecstatic, “It’s happened, it’s happened!” he shouted excitedly, “I’ve been baptised again.”
I hope that your great Profession this morning captures some of that same excitement.
The preparation for your Profession has been similar to the catechumenate. You have met for two or three years with a mentor. The Novice Counsellor has helped you reflect on this Franciscan way. She or he invited you to find ways of expressing Franciscan spirituality in prayer and action.
The catechumenate has a number of other characteristics worth mentioning. One was that if catechumens were martyred before they were baptised, they were considered to have been baptised in their blood. It is my personal belief (not in the statutes at all!) that Novices who die should be considered full Tertiaries, but in any case, the comparison expresses something that your Profession says about the claim that Christ is making on your life and death and beyond.
Catechumens were also kept from the mysteries of the Eucharist, until the night of their baptism, when they received their First Communion. Then in the months after Easter they continued their learning about the Christian faith. Now it was no longer called the catechumenate, but the mystagogy – the teaching about the mysteries.
You who will be make your great Profession in a few moments will also continue to meet with your Novice Counsellor for another 12 months to reflect more deeply on what it is to be a Franciscan Christian. This will be your mystagogy – although I doubt anyone will actually call it that. There are no secrets to learn, as there were for the catechumens in the Early Church – sorry about that – but it is a reminder that the Franciscan Way is not something to be learned in a few months or a couple of short years. You will continue to discover depths in it as you walk in it.
Rae and I were professed 28 years ago. We were seeking an expression of community in our Christian way, and we began as Franciscans by seeking out people. But our mystagogy has included falling in love with Francis and Clare and many other Franciscan saints. For me in particular, as one who enjoys theology, it has been a joy to discover the Franciscan intellectual tradition from Bonaventure to Duns Scotus to Ilia Delio.
But you will discover different things than I have, maybe new depths in social activism; maybe new courage for evangelism; maybe new springs for community – they are all there to discover following the great Profession.
So remember how the writer encouraged the Hebrews:
• Firstly, to make the great Profession in hope, in Christian hope, in the great hope that there always lies before us more joy, more love, more delight in trusting than we have experienced so far; and

• Secondly, that Jesus, the Son of God, our great High Priest is both the energy and the destination of our Christian life.

Your great Profession is that Jesus will always empower you as you seek to serve him in love, humility and joy.

Francis and the Leper


Francis and the Leper

A Reflection by Brother William SSF

Dear God, What did I do?
What strange desire
What grim disorder of my youthful mind;
What shameful and unnatural inclination;
What evil demon, seeking wayward souls
have I encountered –
Jesus am I mad?
Or did I really see your countenance
disturbingly revealed in this poor beggar?
Perhaps it was not such a blasphemy
to see such beauty in that loathsome thing;
to think that I saw my Heart’s Love in that face …

I think I hear a voice speak to my heart
strong and serene, tender and full of love;
Blessed are you, the poor, despised, neglected;
Blessed are you, the outcast and the scorned,
Blssed are you whose lives are fraught with sorrow;
You are the deepest treasures of my heart.

From Poverello: St Francis of Assisi, A saint for our times.

 

Inspired Artisans - Milwaukee USA

 

Remembering Brother Douglas


Brother Douglas

BROTHER DOUGLAS DOWNES (“Apostle to the Wayfarers”/First Minister of the Society of St Francis)

1878-1957

September 7

Brother Douglas was a priest and an Oxford economics don. Moved by the plight of homeless men living ‘on the road’ in the depression, he helped set up the community at Hilfield Farm to minister to the wayfarers.

Sentence

Happy are those who consider the poor and helpless;
the Lord delivers them in the day of trouble. (Psalm 41:1)

Collect

God of the poor, you called Brother Douglas to care for the poor and helpless: give us grace to see our brother and sister in every person we meet and to deal generously with those in need following the example of our Brother and Lord, your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Readings

Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 68:4-8

2 Corinthians 4:5-15

Matthew 5:1-14

Sentence

All who believed were together and had all things in common. (Acts 2:44)

Source: Third Order, Society of St Francis, Australian Province, Manual. Brother Francis’ memoir of Douglas can be found here.


Smooth a Highway


The Scriptures of Advent invite us to repair, straighten, restore a way for Christ to come again into our world. The images are powerful.  It is in our hands to smooth the coming of God’s reign of justice and peace.  It is left to us to prepare a way for God’s people to move beyond whatever holds them captive or oppressed to reach a place of peace and plenty.   Advent calls us into the mystery of our deeper lives in Christ.  It reminds us that Christ comes into our world today through us: we are the hands, the eyes, the  compassion of Christ reaching out to touch our world.   We are the healers, the liberators, the presence and action of God here among us.

There is a saying that when a butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazon, weather patterns in the Atlantic Ocean are affected.   The saying has many variations and I am not sure whether it is true or not.  What I do know is that today, more than ever before, we are discovering the mystery of our interrelatedness with all humanity, our earth and the whole of the cosmos.  Our horizons are forced wider and wider, as is the embrace of our compassion, and the scope of our vision.

Today we are more aware of the way our actions affect other persons, other species and the fragile environment.  We are more aware of the shadows that encircle our world.  Millions of men, women and children walk the rough and twisted pathways of deprivation, exploitation, suffering, powerlessness, and violence.  Placed on a road and stretched single file their number would surely wrap around our globe many times.  Today we recognize that the problems of the world, like its peoples, are interrelated.  We understand that where there is extreme poverty, or chronic conflict, the rights of the most vulnerable are most often violated, and their suffering further amplified.

Extreme poverty [having less than $US 1.00  a day for all ones needs]  is the primary catalyst for conflict,  the spread of diseases like TB and HIVAIDS, and the forced migration of tens of millions in search of a better life.  It is the driving force behind the trafficking of 3 million women and children annually.  It is poverty that propels the majority of these victims into the commercial sex trade.  Poverty is the seed that produces the bad fruit of contemporary slavery.

Extreme poverty holds an estimated 1 billion people captive in hunger, exploitation, sickness, fear and violence. One prediction adds an additional 89 million people to this number by 2010.  One third of deaths, nearly 18 million a year,  are due to poverty-related causes.  Every year more than 10 million children die of hunger and preventable diseases: over 30,000 per day.  Since 1990, 270 million people have died, mostly women and children, roughly equal to the population of the US. (Bread for the World / UNICEF].

Caught on a Highway to Hell

Joalo is seven.  He was born in Cambodia.  After his parents were killed in political conflict he was sold by his uncle for just three hundred US dollars. The money was needed to buy food.  He was handed over to a young woman and smuggled over the border into Thailand where he was forced into the sex tourism industry.  Young boys are popular.

Since there is no monitoring of his working conditions, his “employers” are able to leave him locked in a windowless room for most of the day, with water but little food.  It is very likely that he will not reach his tenth birthday as the HIVAIDS virus is a constant risk.

Thousands of boys like Joalo work in the sex trade in cities throughout the Asia Pacific, including Australia.   Women and girls too are trafficked globally for the sole purpose of sexual exploitation.  They are usually from impoverished and therefore vulnerable situations.  One of the fastest growing sex trade ‘hubs’ is in the Asia Pacific region embracing all the countries surrounding the Mekong River, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and southern China.  The many marginalised people of the region are at risk because of lack of access to education, poverty, lack of appropriate information in indigenous languages, cultural and social degeneration within traditional communities, non-traditional drug use, and increasing involvement in the sex trade which leads to high rates of HIV/AIDS infection and transmission,  and  increased vulnerability to this disease.

Many of the trafficked persons are physically abducted, or lured with half truths or hopes of employment, marriage and the promise of a better life.  Once enslaved,  sex-trafficked victims are subjected to sexual, physical, and psychological abuse from traffickers, pimps and customers.  Many discover that they have incurred a debt which they are bonded to pay off in sexual labour. These debts can last a lifetime, enduring even after a person is repatriated.

The trafficking of persons is a hidden crime, and therefore hard to quantify.  Frighteningly, one United Nations Agency suggests that 2.44 million persons are trafficked annually:  43% for sexual exploitation, 32% for labour exploitation; and 25% a mixture of both.  It is believed that 80 percent are female and 50 percent are children, and that the majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade.  It is known that the trade is growing.  There is no doubt that sex trafficking is a lucrative, and therefore booming business. Because the sex trade is normally secretive, locating sex traffickers and sex tourists to justice is immensely difficult.

Franciscans across the Asia Pacific and beyond reach out and rescue the most vulnerable.

They provide programs of immediate aid and empowerment, providing pathways to a better life.  The numbers  of the afflicted are great and their needs many.   Something more is needed to bring about lasting change.  Franciscans International participates actively in United Nations efforts to eradicate the conditions of extreme poverty that leave children and women open to sexual exploitation and enslavement.

Can you help us to smooth the pathways of those who walk the rocky roads? Your gift to Franciscans International will help us to do this. Please add a donation to your subscription form or send your donation direct to Australian Treasurer Geoff Jordan tssf.

Fr Algy, Co-Founder of SSF


FATHER ALGY ROBERTSON SSF

1894-1955

Co-founder of the First and Second Orders

November 23

Father Algy brought to the early Society of St Francis a deep knowledge of the religious life and a gift for organization.  Fr Algy is remembered as a warm and caring Father-in-God.  His eccentricities are also remembered with equal clarity as delightful and frustrating!

More information at http://www.gensec-ssf.org/Free/Documents/Documents_index.htm

Sentence

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12.7)

Collect

Creator God, your presence fills us with awe and joy.  Help us, as we remember your servant Father Algy, to see your face in everyone we meet, and share with the community the joy of knowing you, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Readings

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 66:1-12

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

Mark 9:30-37

Sentence

You bring forth wine to gladden the human heart and bread to strengthen it.  (See Psalm 104.15)

Father Algy Robertson SSF

Tertiaries in Australia: Seriously Joyful


“Saint Francis provides the basis for the spirituality of contemporary Anglican Tertiaries”.

Ted Witham tssf

Minister Provincial, Third Order, Society of St Francis,

Province of Australia, Papua New Guinea and East Asia

ABSTRACT

There have been Anglican Tertiaries in PNG and Australia for the past 50 years.  They have been shaped by their history, firstly as the Third Order was generated by the First Order friars, and then in the struggle to become an independent, then interdependent Order.  The vast distances of the Australian landscape have created small groups and individuals isolated from one another. This isolation is evolving into both familiar similarities and regional differences.

This paper will access the voices of Tertiaries themselves, to explore their distinctive perspectives on St Francis and the spirituality produced in our unique context.

In particular, the paper will examine

* Tertiaries’ understanding of Franciscan spirituality;

* The ways in which they practise the Franciscan value of poverty;

* Their engagement with social issues as an expression of their Franciscan spirituality; and finally

* Their responses to believers in other traditions in our multi-religious society.

The Third Order and its Form of Life

Young Francis visited the Pope in 1209 seeking permission to live his way of life according to a new Rule.  Thomas of Celano tells us the story and uses two words for “Rule”: propositio and forma. Thomas seems to use these words interchangeably, and causes the reader some confusion.  Was Francis submitting a formal propositio for approval, or was he seeking permission to live out his Christian faith in a new way: a forma vitae (a shape of life)?

Innocent III was familiar with the Benedictine Rule: a detailed propositio setting out the minutiae of the monks’ life.  This written Rule contained within it the way of life, the forma. The monks read the Rule, and did what it said.  St Francis had a new idea: his Rule set down gospel attitudes needed to live out the faith in a new and deeper way.  It took another 12 years to persuade Francis that to protect this way of life, he needed a detailed and formal Rule – a controversial propositio for formal approval.

In St. Francis and the Third Order, Third Order Regular priest Raffaele Pazzelli argues that Francis’ prime aim in 1209 was to secure permission from the Pope to live penance, that is to live the gospel seriously, and to preach this radical Christianity. Australian Tertiary John Davis calls this being ‘seriously joyful’ in Christian living.

The tonsure and celibacy then granted to Francis were secondary consequences of placing the brothers under papal jurisdiction.

The Third Order first took its direction from the 1215 Letter addressed to All Christian People (Armstrong 1:41-44), and was more successful in maintaining the idea that a Rule should consist of principles to be absorbed and subsequently acted out, rather than direct prescriptions to be performed. (Pazzelli 1989)[1]

Anglican Franciscan Orders

There were no religious orders in England after the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1540. 300 years later, in the wake of the Oxford movement, Rome re-established its hierarchy in England in 1850 and Roman Catholic Orders were again tolerated. Various Anglicans experimented with the creation of new Orders. (Williams 1982)

Some of these new Orders were responding to urban poverty and had a Franciscan flavour. Those that survived into the 20th century included the Society of Divine Compassion and the Brotherhood of Saint Francis of Assisi.  From the 1920s in North America, and from the early 1930s in England, groups of Anglican Tertiaries began to establish themselves. Most of these groups of Brothers and Tertiaries came together in 1934 to form the Society of Saint Francis.  The new SSF looked back to St Francis and Saint Clare for its inspiration.  In particular, they wanted their communities to be filled with the spirit of primitive Franciscan life, and not to be constrained by inflexible Rules. (Dunstan 1997)

The Reverend John Copley Winslow, 1882-1974, was a missionary priest in India, searching for ways to live the gospel in community.  (Emilson 1997). He established a Christian ashram Christa Prema Seva Sangha, writing a Rule with a Franciscan flavour. (Sister Joyce CSF 2003) CPSS included both celibate and married and other single members.

This Rule was rewritten and revised to become the Rules of all three Orders of the Society of St Francis.  Back in England, Jack Winslow himself never joined SSF or any other community, but remained active all his life in promoting community as an essential part of Christian living. In later years, he encouraged the non-residential community centred on Lee Abbey. (Winslow 1954)

The Third Order Principles

The Principles now used by Tertiaries are a revised version of the Rules adopted in the 1930s. The genius of the Principles is in both their content, and also in the expectation that we will read them prayerfully over and over again.

Their content is designed to turn the way Franciscans think about Christianity into action.  We remember that Christ is the Master.  The Principles then commit us for the Master’s sake to evangelism, community and simple living.  They tell us that we must pray, study and work if we are to grow as Christians.  They encourage us to see the fruit of our Christian living manifest in humility, love and joy.

However, in repeating these Principles month after month, we learn a language which both propels us into action and also helps us interpret our actions of service and prayer.  No wonder we all speak alike; we are all speaking the same language.

In reciting these Principles prayerfully, we avoid the danger of simply parroting Franciscan language, because our prayer leads us to reflect on the implications of each section of the Principles, to explore their meanings in our life contexts, and even to be critical of them when appropriate.

A Tertiary’s Rule has a second part.  It consists of both the Principles and the Tertiary’s Personal Rule of Life.  This latter document, drawn up by the Tertiary and the Tertiary’s Regional Minister, describes explicitly the actions this particular Tertiary is taking in incarnating  the Franciscan way of living the faith. (Third Order Manual 2009)

The Personal Rule of Life individualises the Franciscan way of living. What is the daily prayer practice of this Tertiary? When, where and how often does this Tertiary receive Holy Communion? How much money does this Tertiary give away – and to whom? How are the values inscribed in the Principles taken into this Tertiary’s daily life and ministry? What will this Tertiary do to express Franciscan simplicity? While the emphasis in the Personal Rule is on this Tertiary, care is taken not to isolate the individual Tertiary from the community.

The gift of the Principles is a language which gives shape to our ministry. Meet Tertiaries from any part of the world, and you will hear this common language spoken. The question for this paper is: Is there a distinctive Australian accent?

Australian Tertiaries’ Lives Reflect their Rule

Earlier in 2009, I invited fellow Tertiaries around Australia to respond to a questionnaire which sought to identify the involvement of Tertiaries in social justice and interfaith activities.  I asked them whether they believed there was a distinctive Australian quality to their ministry as Franciscans.

Out of a possible 200 Tertiaries, 32 questionnaires were returned.  It is likely that these respondents were highly motivated Tertiaries, possibly longer professed than others, and almost certainly involved in leadership in the Third Order.[2]

These 15% who responded to the questionnaire present a picture of Tertiaries highly engaged in active ministry in the community.  One, for example, teaches health to Indigenous students. Others are prolific writers of letters to editors.  Several are involved in formal ministry to the marginalised through the Mission to Seafarers, prison and hospital chaplaincies.  Others are heavily involved in activism on behalf of the environment, signing petitions, writing letters to politicians and attending rallies.  Many are involved in their local parishes as teachers, encouragers, and leaders in prayer.

One respondent reported that she or he incorporated Franciscan spirituality in everyday life by:

“Involvement in and work for organisations concerned with social justice, the environment and peacemaking: Oxfam, Amnesty International, Asylum Seeker Support Network, Australian Conservation Foundation and Pax Christi; living in the present moment, trusting ‘all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well’; beginning each day with a time of prayer.”

The lifestyle of these Tertiaries reflects their Franciscan calling.  Most choose simplicity in their clothing, buying only what is necessary and buying where possible from charity shops.  Many have been reducing, reusing and recycling everyday supplies, long before this became popular in the community.  These Tertiaries are careful in their use of money.  They recognise the danger in the affluent Australian community of buying their way into consumerist attitudes.

One Tertiary wrote:

“I have frequent cupboard cleanouts, and pass on to op shops all that I no longer need.  For me the discipline is not to buy the things I do not need. … I own only a few clothes and shoes, many of which I have bought at op shops. … As I do not have a car, I walk or use government transport; or travel with a friend. ”

Many of these Tertiaries direct gifts of money to carefully chosen agencies in the developing world and those who work with Indigenous Australians.

Tertiaries with natural contact with members of other faiths have become deeply involved in interfaith work.  Some are members of formal committees; others are involved in caring for Muslim or Hindu refugees.  This ministry tended to relate to context: in places where there were no newcomers, Tertiaries had not met people of other faiths, nor sought them out to be involved in interfaith ministry.

This activism is grounded in an understanding of Franciscan spirituality as being “seriously joyful” in living the Christian Gospel. They speak of passionate love for Christ, of care for people and creation, of simplicity and humility.

“Franciscan spirituality is a creation-centred, reflective spirituality that embraces the Divine Love of God; and its beauty is in its simplicity.  Franciscans show their love for God through their affinity with and care of all of creation: nature, animal kingdom, humanity, and all that is animate and inanimate.”

In the words of another, Franciscan spirituality is:

“The wholeness and balance of living both in the desert and the marketplace.”

One Tertiary summed up her Franciscan life in these words:

“May I grow in His Love
To love others
May I serve Him in all Humility
To lovingly wash other’s feet
May I seek His Heavenly gifts
To give to the needy in love
May I follow Him in the Way of the Cross
To show others that Way of love
May I do all things in His strength
To help strengthen the weak
My God and my All.”

Reading about the courage and energy Tertiaries are investing in ministry, especially in social justice and environmental activism was awe-inspiring.

The Language of their Rule permeates the Lives of Tertiaries

The second impressive thing about the Tertiaries who responded is their consistency of language.  All are committed, for example, to “speak out for … international peace.”  (Day 9, The Principles).

For some Tertiaries speaking out for international peace means a commitment to non-violence.  These Tertiaries wish to resist evil even if the resistance itself provokes more violence.  Other Tertiaries are pacifists eschewing all violence, even in resolving conflict.  A number of Tertiaries are members of the military, equally committed to international peace, but seeing a positive role for the armed forces in maintaining peace.

The common desire to speak out for international peace surely arises from the Christian commitment of these Tertiaries.  However, the commonality of language appears to come from the Principles themselves.

Again and again in the questionnaire responses and in talking to Tertiaries, the language of the Principles is heard clearly.  Tertiaries wish to “make our Lord known and loved everywhere.” (Day 5 – the First Aim of the Order).  Tertiaries see that “the heart of their prayer life is the Eucharist.” (Day 15) The fruit of Christian living is joy (Day 28).

This commonality of language appears from four factors.

  1. Firstly, it arises from the obligation of Tertiaries to use daily the Community Obedience.  This includes reading the Principles on a monthly cycle.
  2. Secondly, all Tertiaries are required to wear their profession cross “as a habit”.  One significance of wearing the cross is that it bestows a sense of belonging to a distinctive community in which the values embedded in the Principles are encouraged.
  3. Thirdly, all Tertiaries have at some time been a novice.  Novices are exposed to twelve sets of reading from the Franciscan tradition, and invited to reflect on these readings.  Novice Counsellors encourage novices to dwell in the readings and make them their own.  When all twelve Novice Notes have been read and reflected on, the newly professed Tertiary can look back and see in these Notes where in the Franciscan tradition of the Principles they have been derived.
  4. Fourthly, each Tertiary must renew their promises annually.  This keeps them in active contact with the community with its Franciscan charism, and makes them accountable for their use of the Daily Obedience, and hence of their reading of the Principles.

The Rule and the Distances between Australian Tertiaries

A challenge unique to the Australian Third Order community is the sheer difficulty of meeting.  Australian Tertiaries who live in urban settings tend to live on the outskirts of the metropolitan capitals. To get together in the cities often requires quite difficult journeys of several hours. In rural areas, this problem is magnified.  (Woodbridge 2009)

The “tyranny of distance” forces the Australian Tertiary to take greater individual responsibility for his growth as a Christian and as a member of the Third Order community.  This throws a greater emphasis on the Franciscan activities done alone, that is, in particular, the reading of the Principles.

This enforced isolation appears to achieve two things: it means that Australian Tertiaries when they can meet value those meetings highly. (Woodbridge 2009, 69-90). It also throws them back onto the regular reading of the Principles as their ongoing formation.

The movement from absorbing the Principles and learning their language, to reflective action in the real world is vital for Tertiaries. The Principles inspire them to action, and give them a language to describe, analyse and refine those actions.

In this distinctive way, Australian Tertiaries try to live out their Rule in the spirit of St Francis.  It becomes a language to inspire and frame “seriously joyful” living of the gospel in the real world.

* * * * * * * * * * *

CITED

Regis J. Armstrong (ed.) Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol.1, The Saint, New City Press, 2002

Maurice Carmody, The Franciscan Story, London: Athena, 2008

Petà Dunstan, This Poor Sort, Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd (1997).

William W. Emilson, “The Legacy of John Copley Winslow 1882-1974”, in International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 01 Jan. 1997

Sister Joyce CSF (ed.), From the Rule of Christa Prema Seva Sangha, 1922-1934, in Walking in the Footsteps of Christ: the Historical documents of the Society of Saint Francis, published in 2003 by the Society of Saint Francis, Dorset, UK

Jacques le Goff, Saint Francis of Assisi, London : Routledge, 2004

Denise Mumford tssf, Report on the results of a Questionnaire to Tertiaries of the European Province 2009 (http://www.tssf.org.uk/Members/TSSF_Resources_and_Downloads.html) Accessed 13 November 2009

Raffaele Pazzelli, St. Francis and the Third Order: the Franciscan and pre-Franciscan Penitential movement, Chicago, Ill.: Franciscan Herald Press, 1989.

Third Order, Society of St Francis, Province of Australia, Papua and New Guinea, The Manual, 2009 Revision.

Barrie Williams, The Franciscan Revival in the Anglican Communion, Darton, Longman and Todd, 1982

John Copley Winslow, The Eyelids of the Dawn; Memories, Reflections and Hopes, London: Hodder & Stoughton 1954

Denis Woodbridge tssf, Franciscan Gold : a history of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis in the province of Australia, Papua New Guinea and East Asia, Riverton WA: Third Order, Society of St Francis, Australian Province, 2009


[1] Jacques le Goff makes a similar point about Thomas of Celano’s usage of the words forma and regula. (le Goff, 2004, 31-32)

 

[2] In March 2009, English Tertiary Denise Mumford asked Tertiaries in the European Province to respond to a questionnaire similar to mine. Mumford obtained demographic information which showed that leaders in the Order were over-represented in the sample returned. (Mumford 2009)

Transitus of St Francis


A Vigil Memorial Service
celebrating St Francis’ “passing over”
from this life to the glory of heaven

Liturgy prepared by Pearl McGill tssf

A Tertiary of the Western Australia Region

1. ENTRANCE PROCESSION (in silence)

(Stand)

(A large wooden cross stands before the altar, surrounded by candles)

Ministers kneel in silence and pray

(All Kneel)

2. GREETING AND PRAYER

(Stand)

Leader Let us bless our Lord and God, living and true
All To him we offer all praise, all glory, all honour, all blessing, and every good forever. Amen ,

(The Office of the Passion)

Leader Brothers and sisters,
a very ancient tradition draws us together on the eve of this St Francis’ Festival
to celebrate his Transitus:
the final stage of his journey home to God.While rejoicing in the saint’s holy death and glorious entry into heaven,
we give thanks to God the Father,
that in his Son, and by his Spirit’s power, we too can welcome death as our “sister”, and trusting in his mercy,
can live now in the sure hope of resurrection.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you

All And also with you.
Leader Let us pray(silent prayer)
Leader Lord God,
on this night you gave to our holy father Francis,
the Poverello of Assisi,
the reward of perfect beatitude.In your love, lead us who celebrate his Transitus, to follow closely in his footsteps,
and come, in our turn,
to worship you face to face,
in a joy that knows no ending.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the .Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

All Amen. Amen. Alleluia!
3. THE NARRATIVE OF THE DEATH OF ST FRANCIS

(Sit)

Reader 1 St Francis was lying grievously ill and in pain in the Bishop’s house in Assisi, when a doctor was called for the last time. He said to Francis:
Reader 2 “I must tell you, that according to our science, your malady is incurable and in my opinion you will die at the end of September or the beginning of October”.
Reader 1 Raising his arms to heaven, the sick man joyfully cried out:
Reader 3 “You are welcome, welcome, my dear sister Death,”
Reader 1 Then turning to a friar he asked that Brothers Angelo and Leo be called to help him share this good news by singing beside his bed. In spite of their tears, the two brethren began to intone the Canticle of Brother Sun:
All sing All creatures of our God and king,
Lift up your voices, let us sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Bright burning sun with golden beams,
Soft silver moon that gently gleams,
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 The friars sang the Canticle many times a day to comfort the saint’s failing spirit, and sometimes through the night as well. Not all were pleased.Finally Brother Elias came to Francis and said:
Reader 2 “Well-beloved Father, for my part I rejoice that you should be joyful; but I fear this city, which regards you as a saint, may be scandalised to see that you do not prepare yourself for death in quite another manner”.
Reader 1 The saint smiled and replied:
Reader 3 “Leave me, good Brother, for in spite of what I endure, I feel myself so near to God, that I cannot hold myself from singing”.
Reader 1 Responding to Francis’ expressed desire, Br Elias arranged for him to be carried to the Portiuncula. The magistrates of Assisi consented, and sent an armed escort. When the cortège reached Santa Maria le Mura, Francis raised himself on the litter, and seemed for some time to be contemplating this lovely and familiar view of the city, which he could no longer see. Then painfully he lifted his arm and blessed it:
Reader 3 “May you be blessed, dear city of God. Once you were a lair of brigands, but God has chosen you to become the home of those who know Him and who reverence His most blessed and glorious Name”.
Reader 1 At the Portiuncula, St Francis was given a tiny hut in the forest near to the Chapel of St Mary of the Angels. Again he sensed the solitude of this beautiful place so often visited by the Spirit of God, and he rejoiced as he heard from within the chapel the friars sing:
All sing Swift flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for your Lord to hear,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Fire, so intense and fiercely bright,
Who gives to us both warmth and light,
O praise Him, O praise Him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 This forest solitude was the right setting for Francis’ “passing over” to God, for it was to be an event of radiant beauty. Francis took leave of this world with the same simplicity and courtesy that had marked all the events of his life. He forgot no one or nothing; his sons, his daughters, the places he loved, the Lady of his thoughts, all the creatures with whom he had been so united, shared in his farewells and benedictions. He recommended to his brethren the beloved Portiuncula:
Reader 3 “Brothers, this is a holy place. Hold it ever in veneration and never abandon it”.
Reader 1 In honour of his Lady Poverty, he asked that he be laid naked on the ground, and covering with one hand the wound in his side he said:
Reader 3 “My task is done, may Christ teach you to do yours”.
Reader 1 His friars begged him to forgive them for any offences, and to bless them again. This he readily did, placing his hand successively on the head of each, and then he addressed himself to Bernard of Quintavalle:
Reader 3 “I absolve too, and I bless as far as I am able and even still more than I am able, all my absent brothers. See that these words reach them, and bless them in my name”.
All sing All you with mercy in your heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing now: Alleluia!
All you that pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and cast on him your care:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 Nor did Francis forget Sister Clare, who he learned was weeping at the thought of losing her father and friend. He sent a message to his “little spiritual plant”:
Reader 3 “I, the little brother Francis, wish to follow to the end the poor way which was that of our Lord and of His Mother, and I conjure you, my daughter, never to be separated from it”.
Reader 1 Then he added:
Reader 3 “And say to Lady Clare, that I forbid her to give way to sadness, for I promise her that she and her sisters will see me again”.
Reader 1 Francis also sent a message to his friend, the Lady Jacoba of Rome, that she should come in haste with what is needed for his burial. Before the courier left the room a brother ran in to announce her arrival, and Francis cried weakly:
Reader 3 “God be praised, let the door be opened, for .the rule forbidding women to enter here does not apply to Brother Jacoba!”
Reader 1 The Roman Lady had carried with her all that was needed for the saint’s burial, and a box of almond biscuits, which Francis tried to, but could not eat.More and more often the Canticle of Brother Sun was heard from the hut, with the new verse Francis had composed in praise of “our sister Death of the Body”:
All sing And you most kind and gentle death,
Waiting to hush our final breath,
O praise him, Alleluia!
You lead back home the child of God,
By way that Christ the Lord has trod:
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Reader 1 On Friday 2nd October, Francis asked for bread, and he blessed it and, like Christ at the last Supper, distributed it to all present, while the Gospel of St John was read beginning at the Passion. (Ch 13:11)
(Bread is blessed and quietly distributed to those present, while READER 2 proclaims the Gospel)
Reader 1 At dusk on the next day, “she to whom no one willingly opens the door”, presented herself, and Francis saw her enter. The little poor man received her courteously:
Reader 3 Be welcome, my Sister Death”
Reader 1 and he begged a brother to announce as a herald of arms does, the solemn arrival of his expected guest; for he added:
Reader 3 “It is she who is going to introduce me to eternal life.”
Reader 1 They placed him on the ground in a coarse sack-cloth to honour the sombre guest, his head was covered with ashes and dust. Then with failing voice he intoned Psalm 142, and those around him continued with him:
Reader 3 Voce mea ad Dominum clamavi…..
Alternate verses beginning with the right side
With a loud voice I cry out to the Lord*
with a loud voice I beseech the Lord.
My complaint I pour out before him;*
Before him I lay bare my distress.

When my spirit is faint within me,*
you know my path.

In the way along which I walk *
they have hid a trap for me.

I look to the right to see, *
but there is no one who pays me heed.

I have lost all means of escape; *
there is no one who cares for my life.

I cry out to you 0 Lord;  †
I say, “You are my refuge, *
my portion in the land of the living.

Attend to my cry, *
for I am brought low indeed.

Rescue me from my persecutors, *
for they are too strong for me.

Lead me forth from prison, *

that I may give thanks to your name.

The just shall gather around me *
when you have been good to me.

Reader 1 There was a great silence. Evening had already stolen into the hut. Francis lay motionless. The final stage of his Transitus had begun.One of his biographers wrote:
Reader 2 “He died singing, in the forty-sixth year of his age, and the twenty-fifth of his conversion”.
Reader 1 Immediately a multitude of crested larks flocked wheeling about the roof of the hut and for long, with their sad chirping, bewailed the loss of their friend. At the same hour, a Brother, one of no small fame, saw a shining star, borne on a white cloud, mounting towards heaven. The soul of the Little Poor Man was flying to eternal happiness.

(Stand)

All sing Let all things their creator bless,
And worship him in humbleness,
O praise him, Alleluia!
Praise God the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, three in one;
O praise him, O praise him,
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
(The ministers process out in silence)

THE END
AND THE BEGINNING

Francis makes his Transitus

Francis makes his Transitus

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