A letter from our Provincial on the Feast of St. Francis
Happy Feast of St. Francis
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this feast day of our spiritual father, St. Francis of Assisi, it’s easy to remember the cute birdbath statue of St. Francis and not Francesco (St. Francis before his conversion). Francesco was a man who suffered horribly from the trauma of warfare and from the year he spent in a large pit (called a “jail” at that time) with a hundred other men, fighting for food and a place to sleep under the open air. This left Francis unsettled and he was no longer able to find joy in the partying he had previously found thrilling. After returning to Assisi, he spent time going into places of solitude, such as caves, where his first biographer said that, “he came out like a man who had been in a different battle.” In these caves, he met Jesus in prayer and fell in love with Him. His prayer eventually led him to the broken-down chapel of San Damiano, where he discovered a humble God in Jesus on the cross. It was here that he first heard Christ commission him to repair His church.
Francis no longer “fit” into the regular society of Assisi. He was eventually found by other people who wanted to live like him, including the early brothers and the Lady Clare of Assisi, as well as hosts of others. Francis encouraged all of them to live outside of the “system” of Assisi (like beggars) in order to see things more clearly. He invited them to be rooted in God, but with no fixed dwelling; rich in virtue, but poor in money; wise in the ways of God, but odd in the eyes of most people.
We are the spiritual sons of this man. We still train our men by having them live for a year among the poor, like the poor. Our mission in Jamaica is one of the few chosen sites where the friars are challenged to reach out to a new culture. The new friars must learn from those to whom they are sent. They must also be involved in a prayer life with Christ, who teaches them the downward path to new life—a life of joy and optimism. They must listen to the stories of the people and the older friars who open them up to this amazing adventure of love.
Won’t you help us in this adventure of love? With your donation, you allow us to minister with people who live on the edge of our society and who are largely forgotten. Friars go to folks who often feel as beaten up as the man on the road to Jericho. Pope Francis reminds us that how we treat those on the roadside of life makes all the difference. He says, “there are only two kinds of people: those who care for someone who is hurting and those who pass by” (Fratelli Tutti, #70).
Please help us. By joining our adventure of love for those on the road, you take a stance of caring. You can count on our prayers, as we remember all of our benefactors. What a way to remember the amazing life of St. Francis and the love he experienced with God and passed on to the most forgotten!
(Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, in the Provincial Minister of the Province of St. John the Baptist.)
A Franciscan study guide to Fratelli Tutti can be read here.
Learn more about the Brothers Walking Together program.
Information about the Transitus services can be found here.
The novena to St. Francis features reflections from friars and the prayers are read by Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM.