Tag Archives: Franciscans

14 August: Saint Maximilian Kolbe

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One of the residential houses at the lamented  Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury was called, quite simply, Kolbe. It remembered a Polish Franciscan Saint, whose feast falls today, the day of his death and the eve of the Assumption of Mary.

Brother Maximilian had a lifelong devotion to Mary and encouraged others to follow this way to her son. He set up an organisation the ‘Militia of the Immaculate’

To pursue the conversion to God of all people, be they sinners, or non-Catholics, or unbelievers, in particular the freemasons; and that all become saints, under the patronage and through the mediation of the Immaculate Virgin.

That all become saints! He founded a publishing house and radio station, using technology to preach the Word and ‘pursue the conversion of all people’. Not surprisingly, much of his output was disliked by the Nazis after they invaded Poland. At the same time he was helping refugees, including Jewish people to hide from the Nazis.

His arrest was inevitable, as was his removal to Auschwitz. There he stepped forward to replace a married man with a family who had been picked out to die of starvation. When Brother Maximilian was too long in dying he was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

His remains were cremated the following day.

Following his canonisation he has been recognised as a patron saint of drug addicts; I am sure most of us have known, or known of, someone to recommend to his prayers.

 

 

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4 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LV: Saint Antony and the fish, 1.

anthony and FrancisAny teacher or preacher would have to admit to moments when we’d as soon address the fish of the sea or the school pond, than humans who don’t want to be taught. Abel enjoyed a response from the university carp a few weeks ago, but he was tossing lumps of bread, not words of wisdom. 

The blessed Christ, desiring to set forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant, Saint Antony, with what devotion men should give ear unto his preaching and his holy doctrine, once on a time, amongst others, reproved the folly of the infidel heretics by means of the animals that have no reason, to wit, by the fishes, even as in old time in the Old Testament he had reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of the ass.

Wherefore on a day Saint Antony being in Rimini, where was great company of heretics, desiring to bring them back to the light of the true faith and to the path of virtue, preached unto them for many days, and disputed of the faith of Christ and of the Holy Scripture; but they not only gave no consent unto his holy words, but therewithal, as men hardened and stiff-necked, would give no ear unto him.

Inspired of God, Saint Antony went one day to the river-side hard by the sea; and standing thus upon the bank betwixt the river and the sea, began to speak after the manner of a preacher sent by God unto the fishes: “Hear the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, since the infidel heretics refuse to hear it.” And when he had thus spoken, forthwith there came unto him to the bank a multitude of fishes, great and small and what between, that never in that sea nor in that river had been seen so great a multitude; and they all held up their heads above the water and all stood attentive towards the face of Saint Antony, one and all in much great peace and gentleness and order; for in front and more a-nigh the bank stood the smaller fish, and behind them stood the fish of middle size, further behind where deeper water was the greater fishes stood.

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25 June: A bridge once crossed by Saint Francis: Relics XVII.

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When I lived in Gap, France, I must have crossed this little bridge more than once. That bed of dry stones can be a torrent when the snows melt on the Charence mountain. But this was midsummer, and George was walking a different path to the rest of the family, and posing in the shadows.

I can’t remember how I learned that St Francis crossed this bridge on his travels to preach the Good News, but it’s not something I’d have made up! Considering the number of bridges he must have crossed, is it all that special, other than because it is very old? How many other good and famous people have used it – apart from our George?

There are fragments of wall in the next street to ours, that were once the garden wall of the Roper family; Margaret, the mother, was Thomas More’s daughter; he came here to Canterbury, and it was here that she brought his head for burial in Saint Dunstan’s church, just up the Whitstable Road out of town.

Flesh and blood that I am, eyes and ears and mouth and nose, I appreciate these unsung links with the past. George, around the time this picture was taken, used to climb up a fragment of the Roman wall of Canterbury on his way home from school every day, and I let him; it’s not as though I’m crazy for relics. But we are one family and, as Jesus himself suggested, the Father can make these stones sing out (Luke 19:40). So let’s listen to them.

Francis was told by God to rebuild the Church; he began with a derelict chapel, and a movement of men and women still follow him today; he was in a hurry to preach Good News when he crossed this bridge. Thomas More lived at another time of turmoil and died a martyr after imprisonment in the Tower of London, away from the Canterbury Bells and other flowers in his daughter’s garden.

I cycle past the Roper’s place without a thought most mornings. I did not think of Francis as I went parish visiting in Gap, but it is good to be reminded that our lives criss-cross with those who have gone before us. If God brought them safe thus far, to Gap or Canterbury or even the Tower, he can surely lead us home.

 

 

 

 

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Prayer Vigil for Sri Lanka.

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Fr Tom Herbst OFM, an occasional contributor to this blog, sent this notice today on  behalf of Kent University Chaplaincy.

We are organizing- at very short notice- a candle/prayer vigil at Uni as a memorial for the Sri Lanka victims. It will be held at 8:00 PM beginning outside Eliot College then moving into the chapel. If you can make it that would be great as we would like to see as many people there as possible. Can you pass the word to people who may be interested? Maybe announce on your blog?

If you can make it this evening, that would be good. If not, please spare a moment around 8.00 to join us in prayer.

MMB

 

 

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31 March. Before the Cross XVI: Repenting of Sanctions

 

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Friar Chris writes to us from Zimbabwe, where he has been teaching. Thank you Chris, you have certainly had a fruitful time back in Africa! We are grateful for your sharing it with us and for inviting us to reflect on these issues. Agnellus’ Mirror is here for all manner of reflections!

When I was a teenager, I recall sanctions being imposed against the illegal continuation of a British colonial regime in Rhodesia. Struggles were taking place to replace that outdated structure and form a new nation, Zimbabwe, and by 1980 that had taken place. I also remember wondering how ordinary citizens can cope when many items which we consider to be essential are made unobtainable. When do sanctions become a big hammer used to crack a nut? How can anyone prevent them from becoming one more version of bullying?

This is a relevant question when the churches pass through a repeated catechetical exercise for newcomers to Christianity, which we call Lent. The danger is always the practice of frowning intensely about all the wrongdoings of the human race, but not seeing the changes of heart which need to be the true ‘penitence’ of a change of heart in ourselves. Letting go of our approval of strong arm tactics must often be an aspect of welcoming God’s peace and grace into our lives. Sanctions still exist in the southern African country of Zimbabwe, imposed not only by the United States, but also by the European Union. They seem to be a mode of coercion, not against a right-wing white-domination system, but against a mild version of socialism which happens to question the neo-conservative consumerist programmes favoured by the large market monopolies achieved by commercialist manufacturers. These are generally manufacturers who have done least to extricate the cultures of the world from environmentally-destructive practices.

I do not intend to compose an argument in favour of every governmental alliance built up technologically by the government of Zimbabwe. Geopolitics is an aspect of human circumstances which pervades news broadcasts but which mostly cannot be turned around by churches, even in their most valid calls for charity. Nevertheless, the current school student-led world-wide protests concerning the destruction of environments, which lament that we ignore paths that consider climate change, are genuine appeals for understanding grace and peace. Greater sensitivity to what makes sustainable community, not just sustainable industries, is a challenging and valid concern to introduce to our prayer lives.

In Zimbabwe at the beginning of 2019, a large increase in fuel prices was imposed, leading to rioting, six hundred arrests and a combination of woundings and deaths. With 90% unemployment, this added to an already existing awareness of shared vulnerability for great numbers of the country’s inhabitants. The effects of the sanctions only worsened the realities experienced by the most vulnerable. The cyclone which hit Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique in the middle of March brought flooding, with hundreds made homeless and a possible two hundred deaths. Lack of fuel has its further impact on limits to emergency services. I think for English readers, one factor which might capture the character of the problem is this: when there are raids or beatings, a call made to the police is likely to be met with a question, ‘when can you drive to the police station and pick up the police and bring them to the scene?’ That is an effect of crudely introduced sanctions, which seem to be an illegal measure for the sake of Western domination.

There are areas which feel these effects most, and others, especially for those with some kind of job, where an unimpressive but vaguely ‘normal’ level of daily existence continues to operate. Good numbers of Catholics continue to get to their nearest churches and celebrate the Eucharist as a community gift of solidarity. The teaching and training of young men to help the celebrations to be vibrant, kind, and compassionate continues to be taken on by a seminary and by a college in Harare which is nurturing members of several religious congregations. It takes time to acquire the kinds of perceptive insight and concern which make a genuine pastoral charism deepen and become evident. I have been spending three months teaching this group of young men, at Holy Trinity College.

The parish of the Nazareth House sisters next to the college has a strong lay commitment to developing genuine community gifts and relationships. The students are also involved in running prayer services and giving talks at a number of parishes, forming a network of Christians with shared convictions and sympathies. I try to explore connections between church history and theological developments, especially Vatican II, with them. One student asked me what the reasons are for the well-known decline of European Christianity. I explained it in terms of a lack of real understanding of community bonding and its qualities of transforming awareness. I said that those single diocesan priests who do have a sense of community are moved around with no respect for the needs and wishes of a local congregation. At the same time, where religious orders have been able, with slightly larger numbers, to create a good presence as a communal empowerment focus, they may not be known by believers living twenty miles away, so helping their good charism to spread to other areas will often not take place at all easily.

I have been staying with one of these student groups, the Franciscans, who are present now in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia as well as Zimbabwe. This group struggles to win new members, and has increased its ties of Franciscan commitment across the region since the late 1950s. I lived with the friars in the Zimbabwe custody residence, half an hour’s walk from the College.

The image of a carving of the crucified Christ that accompanies this article is in the small chapel of the friars’ residence. It comes from a centre for sculptures at Driefontein, some way outside Harare. We don’t know the name of the carver. I like the restrained honesty of the image. It speaks to me of the gift of Christ’s understanding of human hardship, of the human need for better interactions and interdependency. This is a thoughtful Christ, one who has clearly spent his life perceiving the pains and heartfelt longing of those to whom he brought forgiveness and hope. Although it seemed as though the hope was rejected by those who wanted to see him killed, I see in the face a possible mind, one which looked in love beyond the knee-jerk rejections and sanctions, which grew up like a wall to prevent his message. In his death he was open to the empowerment of his divine Father, the living God of all human aspirations for peace. There is no barrier to risen reality in this face, and no barrier to our risen realities in the gifts which come to us from the God, who heard his prayers, and who brings our prayers too into their realisation.

Chris Dyczek, OFM

Harare, March 2019.

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Franciscan Missionary Sisters – thank you and goodbye

Dear Friends,
Canon Anthony Charlton has published a tribute to the Franciscan Missionaries of Saint Joseph who are leaving the city and the parish after 27 years.

Sadly, by the end of this month, the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of St Joseph will have left the parish after their presence here of twenty-seven years when Sister Margaret arrived to study at the Franciscan International Study Centre (FISC). From there she moved to St Bonaventure’s University in Upstate New York to study for her Masters in Franciscan Studies returning to teach at FISC where she remained until its closure. During that time, she served as Director of Franciscan Studies and Sabbaticals and the Spiritual Direction Course in which a number of our parishioners took part. Margaret also served as Vice Principal.

For the rest of Canon Anthony’s message, Read on here.

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20 March: Before the Cross VII. Saint Francis’s Prayer before the Crucifix.

 

Most high,

glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of my heart,

and give me true faith,

certain hope,

and perfect charity,

sense and knowledge,

Lord,

that I may carry out

your holy and true command.

AMEN.

We are told that Francis prayed with these words in the early days of his conversion as he sought to learn God’s will for him. He spent hours before this crucifix, the San Damiano Cross, which is reproduced in many Franciscan churches. We had one at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury. This one is in the chapel of the Franciscan Minoresses in Leicestershire. 

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Text in Francis of Assisi, the Saint, Early Documents vol I, Eds Armstrong, Hellman, & Short, NY, New City Press, 1999 p40; San Damiano Cross, Public Domain via Wikipedia; Minoresses’ Chapel, photo by CD.

 

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February 7. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VII: Brother Sheward and Brother George did the impossible.

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Br. Hugues OFM

Start by doing what is necessary; then do what is possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” (St. Francis of Assisi).

Br. Sheward Mandongwe and Br. George Machega have spent the past several years in the Franciscan formation programme, which included human development, religious and Franciscan studies with practical experience in pastoral ministry.

Br. Sheward did his Franciscan Year at St. Francis of Assisi-Nharira Mission in 2014 while Br. George, at the same place in 2015. The Franciscan year is a period of integration and Franciscan experience as it is said in the General Statutes of the Order of Friar Minor that during the time of temporary profession, all the Friars must follow an integrated formation that is properly Franciscan so that they may live out more fully the life of our Order and carry out its mission in a more suitable way.

Following the tradition of the Franciscan Friars in Zimbabwe, at Our Lady of the Angels Friary, Tafara, the day before the profession of our two brothers, after an evening meal there was a time of dialogue between the brothers of the Custody of Good Shepherd and Family members of Br. Sheward and Br. George.

Some brothers explained the Formation stages: Aspirancy, Postulancy, Novitiate and Temporary Profession, Philosophical studies, Franciscan Year and Theological studies. Br. Alfigio explained about the three religious vows; Poverty, Chastity and Obedience with the fact of renouncing all individual goods. Other senior Friars explained the total belonging of the friars to the Order until death, that brothers are buried in the graveyard of the Franciscan Friars not in the family graveyards.

That evening gathering was also a time for the family members of the two brothers to ask questions about Franciscan life. The following day, the special day for Br. Sheward and Br. George, the ritual of their Solemn Profession took place during the Mass led by Br. Fanuel Magwidi OFM, the Parish Priest of St. Matthews Parish, Glenview. The Celebration was well prepared by a committee from St. Matthew’s, in collaboration with their parish Priest. Br. Jean Claude OFM, during his homily instructed the two brothers that Solemn Profession is done only once in life and there is no way backwards once it is done. Brothers are bound by vows into the Order for the rest of their life.

The Custos, Br. Alfigio, received the Final Profession of Br. Sheward and Br. George. After the Eucharistic Celebration, a meal was shared with all who were present, religious from different congregations, families and relatives of the two brothers, the faithful and even uninvited guests. We thank God for this grace, Br. Sheward and Br. George did the impossible by not only gathering different people from different families and leave everything for the sake of Franciscan life, a decision which is not easy to take. Through this celebration, the Franciscan Family is also growing and the Order is very thankful to God and to all the people who made the day possible.

Thanks to Brother Chris for letting us learn about Franciscan Formation in Zimbabwe. We hope to return there in the future. Will.

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February 3. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe IV: The gift of Water, 1.

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 This celebration of water, slightly abridged, is by Sister Theodora Mercy Kaviza OFS. It is far too easy, for those of us with clean, safe, running water to take it for granted. Sister Theodora Mercy reminds us that it is both gift and necessity. The second half follows tomorrow.

In our bodies, from the rebuilding of our muscles to blood circulation to boosting digestion, one main component is needed, and this is water. We use water to bathe, and for cleansing and purification, because it keeps sickness and bad moods at bay, and rejuvenates the body.

However when we look around and see how we have abused the water sources of the world it is easy to realize that we have totally forgotten how important water is to our very existence. From prehistoric times humans thought that the benefits of water were divine gifts or even that the water itself was a divinity: lakes, rivers, springs and glaciers became places of veneration.

Birds, reptiles and amphibians are born from eggs which are mainly full of water. Mammals too, before they are born, swim in their mother’s womb in a liquid composed principally of water. In the Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis of Assisi praises God for water: “Praised be Thou, O Lord, for sister water, who is very useful, humble, precious, and chaste”.

In Africa, a hot and mainly arid continent, the great rivers Nile, Congo, Niger, Zambezi and the Lakes Chad, Victoria and Rudolf, have always been life-giving. The ancient Egyptians believed their country was “a gift of the Nile” and they venerated the river as a deity.

In the creation story of the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible, God’s spirit first moved “over the face of the waters” and God said “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures” (Genesis 1:2, 20). In Islam, water is the origin of all life on Earth and the Qur’an says water is the substance from which God created the human being (25:54).

The Indians take the Ganges River to be both a symbol of life and a place where one can wash away spiritual impurities, thereby drawing closer to the sacred source of life. In a similar way, ancient Jewish tradition calls people on special occasions to cleanse their bodies spiritually by immersion in a ‘mikveh’ bath. For Muslims, ablution with water, is an obligatory preparation for daily prayer.

Image from St Aloysius’ Somers Town, London. MMB

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31 January. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe III: a commitment for life.

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The Zimbabwe Custody is part of a larger East African Province of the Franciscans. We continue the theme of formation with Brother Victor Orwa’s account of making his final vows in Uganda. 

One of the most special moments in my life was when I was received in the Franciscan novitiate to undergo spiritual nourishment as I prepare to make my first vows in religious life. At the end of the year, I committed myself for one year to live in simplicity, with nothing of my own and in chastity. I continued renewing my vows as I promised to the Lord till 5th August, 2018 when I committed myself to the Lord. I was not alone, together with Friar Elcardo Muhereza ofm, we committed ourselves in the hands of the Minister Provincial, Friar Carmello Gianone, the Minister Provincial of the Province of Saint Francis in East Africa, Madagascar and Mauritius.

The event took place in Uganda in one of our Parishes called Rushooka. The procession started at 10 a.m with a good number of religious attending and joining in the profession. The mammoth crowd were jubilant and vibrant in singing to the highest level of their voices. I could notice the smiles on the faces of the Christians who attended and this gave me courage to move on step by step towards my final commitment.

The celebration ended at around 3:00 p.m. and then followed by the congratulatory gifts from the parents and the parishioners. Afterwards, there was the late lunch and taking of photos to keep the day in memory. The event was much awaited since we undertook this journey. I kept on praying for the good Lord to guide us, as He has started. And with the help of the friars we shall manage to reach that level of perfection. Special thanks goes to our formators who had journeyed with us all along and who have believed in us in such a way that they had recommended us for the step. To Our Minister Provincial Friar Carmello Gianonene, for believing in us too and given us the opportunity to be among his friars in the province. To the Custos of Zimbabwe friar Alfigio Tunha, OFM who has given us a home and journeyed with us and lived among us as our own brother. And to the whole friars of the Custody of Good Shepherd. Special Thanks !!!

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