Pray with Francis to Mark the Resurrection of Jesus
This blog concludes our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

One of Saint Francis’s most extensive, but at the same time, lesser-known writings, is his Office of the Passion. This work was a unique product of his many years of meditating on the major events of Christ’s life—his coming into the world as God’s beloved Son, announcing his Father’s Word with its promise but its rejection by many, culminating in the Paschal Mystery of his suffering, death, and resurrection and how we as believers are incorporated into this mystery.

Expressing deep relationship with Christ

As Francis meditated, different phrases from the psalms and the liturgy of the Church struck him deeply, which in a “stream of consciousness” he pieced together in a collage, creating fifteen new “psalms” that express his deep relation with Christ. The result is

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The Way of the Cross: Part of Everyday Life in Jerusalem

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

When I guide Holy Land pilgrims through the streets of Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa (Latin for “Sorrowful Way”), we usually share the crowded streets with pilgrim groups from around the world, people of other faiths going about their business, tourists from cruise ships, and merchants standing outside their shops doing business. We are part of everyday life in the Old City.

Way of the Cross imported from Europe

The Via Dolorosa, the route traveled by Jesus on Good Friday, takes pilgrims from the place of his trial before Pilate to his burial in the tomb provided by Joseph of Arimathea. Most Catholics know the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa, also called the Via Crucis and Way of the Cross, but they may be surprised

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Contemplating the Trinity: A Lenten Exercise

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

Almighty, eternal, just and merciful God,
give us miserable ones
the grace to do for You alone
what we know you want us to do
and always to desire what pleases You.
Inwardly cleansed,
interiorly enlightened
and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit,
may we be able to follow
in the footprints of Your beloved Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
and, by Your grace alone,
may we make our way to You,
Most High,
Who live and rule
in perfect Trinity and simple Unity,
and are glorified
God almighty,
forever and ever.
Amen.

 

The preceding prayer concluded Francis’s “A Letter to the Entire Order” and is as relevant a prayer for us in our days as it was for Francis in his. It is an

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Clare’s Encouragement: Go Forward and Stay There

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

“We’ll get together when it’s safe.” How many times have you said this, or something like it, this past year? Who are you missing most this Lent? In your Christian vocation, who has been your greatest encourager recently?

The need to connect with loved ones

In this Lenten season of opportunity and loss, I have found Clare of Assisi to be a good friend and encourager. I am rereading her letters to Agnes of Prague, someone Clare grew to love but probably never expected to meet this side of heaven.

As I have needed to connect with others while distanced, so Clare and Agnes needed to connect with each other—in much more difficult circumstances! I have needed my loved ones to remind me who I really am,

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The Five Lents of Francis

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

The early sources about the life of Francis mention five “Lents.”

A Lent to prepare for Easter and for Christmas

For 40 days before Easter, Francis observed the “Great Lent,” what we know as Lent today.

Francis also observed a similar period of 40 days of fasting and prayer in preparation for Christmas, beginning after the Feast of All Saints on November 1. It was at the end of a Lent preparing for Christmas that Francis arranged for the display of the Nativity scene at Greccio.

Both Lents were observed by his brothers as well (Later Rule, Chapter 3).

A fast like Jesus’ in the desert

Francis also recommended a fast of 40 days after the Epiphany, January 6. On this day in

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Saint Francis Tells Us to Turn Ourselves Around, Look for Goodness

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

The Assisi Compilation is a collection of stories about Saint Francis told by the friars who knew him personally and may even have lived with him. The stories were compiled between the years 1241 and 1260 and hold reasonable credibility as a significant contribution to our Franciscan intellectual tradition.

Apologize for a lack of kindness

One such story tells of a time when the friars were accosted by a group of robbers. Fearing the intentions of the robbers, the friars told them to leave the area and chastised the robbers for their apparent malintent. When Saint Francis arrived, the friars were eager to tell him about their encounter with the robbers and how they got rid of them. Rather than commending the friars, Francis chastised them. He

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Pray Like Francis: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, and we bless you”

This blog continues our Lent 2021 series of reflections on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition by a variety of women and men Franciscans.

In his Testament, Saint Francis of Assisi urged the friars to pray whenever they visited churches: “We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches throughout the whole world and we bless you because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Francis believed strongly in Jesus’ Incarnation

In the thirteenth century when many people spoke glowingly of the “spiritual Church” and extremely negatively about the “fleshy (carnal) Church,” Francis dealt with the Catholic Church as he found it. He anticipated the much later words of Oliver Cromwell, encouraging the man painting his portrait to show him “warts and all.” Because Francis believed very strongly in Jesus’ Incarnation, the Poor Man of Assisi strongly rejected the luxury of retreating into an ideal Church, all

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John of Capestrano

On October 23, the Church remembers St. John Capistran, a Franciscan who had a prominent and multi-faceted ministry as a preacher and reformer in 15th century Europe.

Several years ago, Fr. Steve Grunow accurately described him: “John was a Franciscan friar and priest, but not of the good-natured variety of Franciscans that holds the popular imagination. To describe John as zealous would be an understatement. He walked the fine line between zeal and fanaticism, allowing God to write straight with the crooked lines he drew throughout his life.” 

Born in 1386 in Capestrano in the Abruzzo region of Italy, his youth was scarred by violence. His father, a knight, and all his brothers were killed in one of the bloody civil conflicts so common in Italy at the time. He later spoke of the thirst for revenge that he felt as a young man. He studied law at the

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St. Pius of Pietrelcina

On September 23, Catholics celebrate the memory of St. Pius of Pietrelcina (1887-1968), the Capuchin Franciscan friar still best known simply as "Padre Pio," who has become one of the most popular saints in the Church.

He was born of poor but devout parents, Grazio and Maria Forgione, in the province of Benevento in Southern Italy, and baprtized Francesco. At an early age, he wanted to enter the Capuchin friars, but lacked the educational background.  His father Grazio came to the  United States to find work in order to pay for schooling, and Francesco entered the novitiate in 1903 and given the name Pio.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910. 

Padre Pio was plagued with ill health in his early years. In 1916 he was assigned to the small friary of Our Lady of Grace in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in Apulia where he spent almost

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Rose of Viterbo

On September 4, the Franciscan family celebrates the memory of St. Rose of Viterbo (c. 1233-1251), an audacious young Secular Franciscan woman who challenged her contemporaries as a public preacher.

Born in the city of Viterbo to a working-class family, Rose was captivated by the Franciscan friars who had established a church there. She began dressing up in their habit and devoted herself to prayer and ascetical practices in her home. She also experienced visions and gained a reputation of being able to foretell the future.  To the consternation of her parents, people flocked to their home to hear Rose speak. In time, they allowed her to join the Brothers and Sisters of Penance (the Franciscan “Third Order”). Although still in early adolescence, Rose began preaching publically, girt in a Franciscan cord, leading her followers through the streets, urging people to do penance and turn their lives to God. The

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Maximilian Kolbe

76 years ago, August 14, 1941, Fr. Maximilian Kolbe OFM. Conv., was killed with a phenol injection inside a starvation cell of Block 11 of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Kolbe was born in 1894 at Zdunska Wola near Lodz, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a devout but poor family. As a teenager, he determined to become a Franciscan and so illegally crossed the border into the Austro-Hungarian Empire where he studied at the Conventual minor seminary in Lvov and entered the Order in 1910. Friar Maximilian was a brilliant student who excelled in what we would call today STEM subjects; after his profession, he was sent on for studies in Rome, where he earned doctorates in both philosophy and theology.

 Kolbes RoomDuring his years in Italy, he witnessed violent anti-clerical demonstrations and became convinced of the need to mobilize Catholics to profess their faith in

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Feast of St. Clare

On August 11, the Franciscan family celebrates the feast of St. Clare of Assisi (1193/94-1253), the first woman to join Francis and his brothers in their new Gospel way of life. 

Clare was born into one of the feudal land-owning families of Assisi, spending some years in the neighboring city of Perugia due to class warfare in Assisi. Several years after her family's return to Assisi, she determined to embark on a life of penance in her family home, but, inspired by conversations she had with Francis, she decided to abandon her family and social status, and in 1211 or 1212 became part of the new movement of a "life according to the Holy Gospel" at the Portiuncula. She and several other women who soon joined her quickly settled at the church of San Damiano. Francis told them:

"Since by divine inspiration you have made yourselves daughters and servants of the

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 Benedict the African

On April 3, the Franciscan family honors the memory of St. Benedict the Black or Benedict the African (1526-1589). He was referred to in Italian as “il Moro” (dark-skinned), and this was often translated into English as “the Moor.”

Benedict was born at San Fratello, a small town near Palermo, Sicily, to an African slave couple. Due to their good service, their son was declared free at birth. Benedict became a hard- working shepherd, devoted to prayer; he never went to school due to his poverty and remained illiterate all his life. When he was 21, a nobleman witnessed his patient attitude when insulted because of his race, and invited him to come with him and form an independent group of lay Franciscan hermits; there Benedict became the cook, and eventually became head of the group.

In 1564, Pope Pius V ordered groups of lay hermits to join an established

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