Franciscan documents

Franciscan bits & pieces picked up by Ted Witham tssf

Archive for the tag “spirituality”

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

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The Last Words of Clare of Assisi


The body of Clare in her basilica in Assisi

As she lay dying, St Clare of Assisi spoke to herself:

“Go securely and in peace, my blessed soul. The One who created you and made you holy has always loved you tenderly as a mother her dear child. And you, Lord, are blessed because You have created me.”

Legend of St Clare in Regis J. Armstrong, Clare of Assisi – The Lady: Early Documents, New City Press, 2006, 46.

Re-posted from Mind Journeys at https://tedwitham.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/the-last-words-of-clare-of-assisi/

 

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

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

 

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)

A Commentary on the Principles


Principles of the Third Order

Commentary*

Pope Innocent III grants Francis permission to preach penance

Pope Innocent III grants Francis permission to preach penance

Day One — The Object

Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.’

I have decided to follow Christ. He leads me to the cross, the place of death and new life. What areas of my life am I being called to die to? What must I relinquish? Who is the master of my life?

Day Two — The Object (continued)

In the example of his own sacrifice, Jesus reveals the secret of bearing fruit. In surrendering himself to death, he becomes the source of new life. Lifted from the earth on the cross, he draws all people to himself. Clinging to life causes life to decay; the life that is freely given is eternal.

The fruit of life is its results. My fruit comes from dying to self which allows the Spirit to be at work within me. What is the fruit of my life? How can I bear more fruit in the church, among my neighbours, in my Third Order community?

Day Three — The Object (continued)

Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey, he promises union with God. The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master, and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people.  The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.

Francis’ life provides an example of union with God. What difference has my Franciscan calling made in my life? I have vowed to keep my Rule. How do I fall short in observing the spirit of discipline and commitment?

Day Four — The Object (continued)

When Saint Francis encouraged the formation of The Third Order he recognised that many are called to serve God in the spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience in everyday life (rather than in a literal acceptance of these principles as in the vows of the Brothers and Sisters of the First and Second Orders). The Rule of The Third Order is intended to enable the duties and conditions of daily living to be carried out in this spirit.

We are called to simplicity in the spirit of poverty, to chastity in or out of marriage in the spirit of celibacy, and obedience to our directors. It is a challenging calling. But I am not alone. How does meeting together with my Third Order group give me encouragement and strength?

Day Five — The First Aim of the Order

To make our Lord known and loved everywhere.

The Order is founded on the conviction that Jesus Christ is the perfect revelation of God; that true life has been made available to us through his Incarnation and Ministry; by his Cross and Resurrection; and by the sending of his Holy Spirit.  Our Order believes that it is the commission of the church to make the gospel known to all, and therefore accepts the duty of bringing others to know Christ, and of praying and working for the coming of the Kingdom of God.

The life of Francis drew people to the Lord. His faith was shown by his preaching and his lifestyle. Are people attracted to Christ by my life? In the Lord’s Prayer, I pray, ‘Your Kingdom come’. In what ways am I helping to fulfil this prayer?

Day Six — The First Aim (continued)

The primary aim for us as Tertiaries is therefore to make Christ known. This shapes our lives and attitudes to reflect the obedience of those whom our Lord chose to be with him and sent out as his witnesses. Like them, by word and example, we bear witness to Christ in our own immediate environment and pray and work for the fulfilment of his command to make disciples of all nations.

When those outside the church and those seeking a faith see me, how much of Jesus do they see?


Day Seven — The Second Aim

To spread the spirit of love and harmony.

The Order sets out, in the name of Christ, to break down barriers between people and to seek equality for all. We accept as our second aim the spreading of a spirit of love and harmony among all people. We are pledged to fight against the ignorance, pride, and prejudice that breed injustice or partiality of any kind.

It is often easier to associate with like-minded people. This can lead to discrimination. We are called to be bridge-builders and overcome barriers between people. Is this difficult for me? What are my personal preferences and prejudices? Which people do I find it hardest to love? Who do I exclude and reject?

Day Eight — The Second Aim (continued)

Members of The Third Order fight against all injustice in the name of Christ, in whom there can be neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; for in him all are one. Our chief object is to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus. This can only be achieved in a spirit of chastity, which sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfilment.

What areas of injustice and inequality and discrimination are there in society, my community or my church, and what am I doing about it?

Day Nine — The Second Aim (continued)

As Tertiaries, we are prepared not only to speak out for social justice and international peace, but to put these principles into practice in our own lives, cheerfully facing any scorn or persecution to which this may lead.

Am I willing to suffer misunderstanding and persecution in the cause of peace and justice? How do I remain at peace and unruffled in the face of unfair criticism?

Day Ten — The Third Aim

To live simply.

The first Christians surrendered completely to our Lord and recklessly gave all that they had, offering the world a new vision of a society in which a fresh attitude was taken towards material possessions. This vision was renewed by Saint Francis when he chose Lady Poverty as his bride, desiring that all barriers set up by privilege based on wealth should be overcome by love. This is the inspiration for the third aim of the Society, to live simply.

It can be difficult to decide how to live simply. What is my attitude towards those who are more wealthy, and those who are less wealthy than me? Am I able to avoid coveting the possessions of others?

Day Eleven — The Third Aim (continued)

Although we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, we show ourselves true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others.  We recognise that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God.

Many people place their security in their bank balance and investments, and the drive to acquire more wealth. Where is my true security? Am I using my resources as God would have me?

Day Twelve — The Third Aim (continued)

Personal spending is limited to what is necessary for our health and well-being and that of our dependants.  We aim to stay free from all attachment to wealth, keeping ourselves constantly aware of the poverty in the world and its claim on us. We are concerned more for the generosity that gives all, rather than for the value of poverty in itself. In this way we reflect in spirit the acceptance of Jesus’ challenge to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him.

When Jesus called the rich young man to follow him, the man decided to keep his wealth instead. How would I have responded? Why did Francis forbid the brothers to handle money? Do people see me as a generous person?

Day Thirteen — The Three Ways of Service

Tertiaries desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, whom we serve in the three ways of Prayer, Study, and Work. In the life of the Order as a whole these three ways must each find full and balanced expression, but it is not to be expected that all members devote themselves equally to each of them. Each individual’s service will vary according to his or her abilities and circumstances, yet each individual member’s Personal Rule of Life must include each of the three ways.

We serve the Lord through prayer, study and work. How much of my time and energy do I devote to these ways of serving? What are my priorities? Do I need to revise them?

Day Fourteen — The First Way of Service

Prayer

Tertiaries seek to live in an atmosphere of praise and prayer.  We aim to be constantly aware of God’s presence, so that we may indeed pray without ceasing.  Our ever-deepening devotion to the indwelling Christ is a source of strength and joy.  It is Christ’s love that inspires us to service, and strengthens us for sacrifice.

My love of God is expressed partly in the time I give to listening to him in prayer and meditation. How much time do I give to this conversation with God? What does my life of serving others show about my prayer life?

Day Fifteen — The First Way of Service (continued)

The heart of our prayer is the Eucharist, in which we share with other Christians the renewal of our union with our Lord and Saviour in his sacrifice, remembering his death and receiving his spiritual food.

Some people approach the Eucharist expecting an emotional ‘high’, others offering a sacrifice of thanks and praise. Which is more pleasing to God? Where do I fit in? Do I welcome the work of the Holy Spirit transforming me through the Eucharist?

Day Sixteen — The First Way of Service (continued)

Tertiaries recognise the power of intercessory prayer for furthering the purposes of God’s kingdom, and therefore seek a deepening fellowship with God in personal devotion, and constantly intercede for the needs of his church and his world. Those of us who have much time at our disposal give prayer a large part in our daily lives. Those of us with less time must not fail to see the importance of prayer and to guard the time we have allotted to it from interruption. Lastly, we are encouraged to avail ourselves of the sacrament of Reconciliation, through which the burden of past sin and failure is lifted and peace and hope restored.

How does God feel while surveying the people of this world, especially their sufferings? Can I sense some of God’s love and compassion? Can I respond in intercession? Do I see my need for reconciliation with God, and how do I seek it?

Day Seventeen — The Second Way of Service

Study

‘This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ John 17.3. True knowledge is knowledge of God. Tertiaries therefore give priority to devotional study of scripture as one of the chief means of attaining that knowledge of God that leads to eternal life.

Theologians are at work uncovering secrets in the scriptures which enrich our faith. How am I benefiting from their discoveries? How am I growing in knowledge, in faith and in love?

Day Eighteen — The Second Way of Service (continued)

As well as the devotional study of Scripture, we all recognise our Christian responsibility to pursue other branches of study, both sacred and secular. In particular some of us accept the duty of contributing, through research and writing, to a better understanding of the church’s mission in the world: the application of Christian principles to the use and distribution of wealth; questions concerning justice and peace; and of all other questions concerning the life of faith.

God is continually speaking to us through scripture, through life experiences, and through other Christians. Am I listening and learning? Am I sharing what I have learnt with others? How?

Day Nineteen — The Third Way of Service

Work

Jesus took on himself the form of a servant. He came not to be served, but to serve. He went about doing good: healing the sick, preaching good news to the poor, and binding up the broken hearted.

Francis found joy in ministry to lepers. How do I serve others? What should I do to minister in God’s world?

Day Twenty — The Third Way of Service (continued)

Tertiaries endeavour to serve others in active work. We try to find expression for each of the three aims of the Order in our lives, and whenever possible actively help others who are engaged in similar work. The chief form of service that we have to offer is to reflect the love of Christ, who, in his beauty and power, is the inspiration and joy of our lives.

Francis set an example of joyful love in everything. Does my life show forth the love of Jesus?

Day Twenty One — The Three Notes of the Order

Humility, love, and joy are the three notes that mark the lives of Tertiaries. When these characteristics are evident throughout the Order, its work will be fruitful. Without them all that it attempts will be in vain.

Imagine that you have died, and you can hear what people are saying about you at the funeral. What would they say? What are the main characteristics of your life?

Day Twenty Two — The First Note

Humility

We always keep before us the example of Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and who, on the last night of his life, humbly washed his disciples’ feet. We likewise seek to serve one another with humility.

Why did Francis value Brother Juniper so highly? Am I willing to take the lowest place? Or do I expect others to look up to me?

Day Twenty Three — The First Note (continued)

Humility confesses that we have nothing that we have not received and admits the fact of our insufficiency and our dependence upon God. It is the basis of all Christian virtues. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux said, `No spiritual house can stand for a moment except on the foundation of humility’. It is the first condition of a joyful life within any community.

Sometimes we jump to conclusions about what others think about us, and become offended. One aspect of humility is ascribing the best of motives to other people. How do I deal with apparent feelings of prejudice or rejection towards me? Can I truly place all my dependence on God?

Day Twenty Four — The First Note (continued)

The faults that we see in others are the subject of prayer rather than of criticism. We take care to cast out the beam from our own eye before offering to remove the speck from another’s. We are ready to accept the lowest place when asked, and to volunteer to take it.  Nevertheless, when asked to undertake work of which we feel unworthy or incapable, we do not shrink from it on the grounds of humility, but confidently attempt it through the power that is made perfect in weakness.

I know I am not perfect. I also know that I cannot see all my own faults. Can I accept my own faults without trying to justify myself? Am I willing to undertake a lowly position, instead of insisting on my status?

Day Twenty Five — The Second Note

Love

Jesus said, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13.34-35) Love is the distinguishing feature of all true disciples of Christ who wish to dedicate themselves to him as his servants.

A description of love is given in 1 Corinthians 13.4-7. When I read it, can I put my own name there in the text, in place of the word ‘love’?

Day Twenty Six — The Second Note (continued)

Therefore, we seek to love all those to whom we are bound by ties of family or friendship. Our love for them increases, as our love for Christ grows deeper. We have a special love and affection for members of the Third Order, praying for each other individually and seeking to grow in that love. We are on our guard against anything that might injure this love, and we seek reconciliation with those from whom we are estranged. We seek the same love for those with whom we have little natural affinity, for this kind of love is not a welling-up of emotion, but is a bond founded in our common union with Christ.

The word ‘love’ has many meanings. Do I truly see this selfless love as a discipline and attitude that seeks the best for others?

Day Twenty Seven — The Second Note (continued)

The Third Order is a Christian community whose members, though varied in race, education, and character, are bound into a living whole through the love we share in Christ. This unity of all who believe in him will become, as our Lord intended, a witness to the world of his divine mission. In our relationships with those outside the Order, we show the same Christ-like love, and gladly give of ourselves, remembering that love is measured by sacrifice.

Christ’s love took him to the cross, where he made the supreme sacrifice for the world. If love is measured by sacrifice, how do I rate? What am I willing to suffer to show Christ’s love working in me?

Day Twenty Eight — The Third Note

Joy

Tertiaries, rejoicing in the Lord always, show in our lives the grace and beauty of divine joy. We remember that we follow the Son of Man, who came eating and drinking, who loved the birds and the flowers, who blessed little children, who was a friend to tax collectors and sinners and who sat at the tables of both the rich and the poor. We delight in fun and laughter, rejoicing in God’s world, its beauty and its living creatures, calling nothing common or unclean. We mix freely with all people, ready to bind up the broken-hearted and to bring joy into the lives of others. We carry within us an inner peace and happiness, which others may perceive, even if they do not know its source.

Joy is founded on security, a deep-seated trust in the goodness of God. Do I reflect joy? Do people see joy in my attitudes? Do I bring joy to them?

Day Twenty Nine — The Third Note (continued)

This joy is a divine gift, coming from union with God in Christ. It is still there even in times of darkness and difficulty, giving cheerful courage in the face of disappointment, and an inward serenity and confidence through sickness and suffering. Those who possess it can rejoice in weakness, insults, hardships, and persecutions for Christ’s sake; for when we are weak, then we are strong.

Francis gave Brother Leo the parable of perfect joy, which has been a source of inspiration to many of Francis’ followers. This parable teaches us to be content in spite of adversity, refusing to let outward events shape our inner peace. Is this true of me?

Day Thirty — The Three Notes

The humility, love, and joy, which mark the lives of Tertiaries, are all God-given graces. They can never be obtained by human effort. They are gifts of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Christ is to work miracles through people who are willing to be emptied of self and to surrender to him.  We then become channels of grace through whom his mighty work is done.

‘Make me a channel of your peace’ is a prayer sometimes wrongly ascribed to Francis. Yet it embodies so much of his own way of life. How much of a channel of God’s grace am I?

*This commentary was prepared by David Bertram, African Province for use by Tertiaries.

Spiritual Director or Adviser?


Each Tertiary is required to have a Spiritual Director or Adviser. What you have depends on where you are in your Franciscan journey. In 1995, we developed this diagram to help people see the range of possibilities in this important relationship.

Spiritual Director or Soul Friend?

Spiritual Director or Soul Friend?

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