Many people who come to St. Peter’s regularly take up the bulletin weekly and read it. Some tell me that they look forward to the weekly chuckle and that the chuckle is the first part of the bulletin they read. However, I do hope that they eventually go to the lead article and then to the commentary on the Sunday Scriptures, and finally to the highlights about some of our programs and offerings during the week. All of this material not only tries to prepare you for our liturgies, but they also give you a sense of our spiritual journey somewhat from a Franciscan perspective.
If you participate in either our weekday or our Sunday Masses and thereby hear homilies preached by a variety of the friar priests, you notice that each friar develops his message in a particular way, but each of them somehow also gives you an insight into the Franciscan approach to searching the Scriptures and then applying them to our daily lives. When one has been a professed friar for a number of years, he cannot really preach except in some way revealing the particular insight Francis of Assisi had to all of creation, to the completely beneficial love God showed us in sending his Son into our world to be our Savior and Redeemer, to seeing our journey of life to know, love and serve our God in imitation of Jesus Christ, and finally to appreciate that only in being totally open to God’s will is to find peace, joy and happiness here on earth as well as preparing for eternal life with God after death.
Our lay brothers also proclaim this same journey by their work, their lives and their personalities. We truly believe that we are all first and foremost called to be brothers and then some are also called to be ordained ministers. This theme of fraternity is embedded in the Franciscan Movement, which began as one Assisian lay movement with similar identity and work. The movement would develop into three orders: the Friars Minor, the Poor Sisters, and the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.
The Franciscan Movement: Beginnings
Francis of Assisi did not set out to found an Order; rather through his conversion process he wanted to be open to whatever God had in store for him. He read in the Scripture Jesus’ response to the young man who asked what he was to do, “Go, sell what you have and give it to the poor, and then come follow me.” Francis took these words literally and seriously. He divested himself of all that he had received from his father and then put his life, his talents and his energy at the disposal of the Lord.
One day while he was wandering the hillsides of Assisi and enjoying the delights and beauty of nature, he came upon the dilapidated chapel of San Damiano. It still housed a beautiful crucifix, and he knelt down to pray. While there, he heard a voice speaking to him with these words, “Francis, go repair my church, for it is falling into ruin.” Again Francis took the message literally and began to beg and collect stones and mortar to repair San Damiano. Some of his former friends would come to visit him and were astounded by his joy and cheerfulness. They began to help him rebuild the chapel and eventually to follow his example of total dependence upon God.
When this band of brothers reached twelve in number, they travelled to Rome in order to ask for the blessing of Pope Innocent III for their way of life. They went to the Church of St. John Lateran—then the Cathedral that housed the papal household and the main church of Christendom—and asked to see the Pope. They were ushered in and found a number of other cardinals along with him in the meeting room. “Why have you come?” the Pope asked. “For your blessing and approval of our way of life,” Francis answered. “And what is your Rule?” “The Gospel,” the brothers declared in one accord. They were told to come back the following day for an answer.
In fact, the cardinals were shocked by what they had heard and told the Holy Father that such a way of life was too difficult, and therefore their advice was not to say yes to their request. That night Pope Innocent had a dream in which he saw the Lateran Church falling down, but it was being held up by a young man pushing against its walls. He came to realize that this man was Francis of Assisi whom he had met the day before. When Francis and the brothers returned for his answer, he told them to live by the Gospel and to preach by their very lives as well as being itinerant preachers to the people. So began the Friars Minor, whose more formal Rule, citing numerous Gospel passages to detail the lives of the brothers who had grown by leaps and bounds, was approved in 1223 by Pope Honorius III.
Some women, especially Clare from another wealthy family of Assisi, saw the wonder and goodness of the followers of Francis and wanted to become part of this new way of life. When she was just 18 years old, Clare heard Francis preach in the church of San Giorgio in Assisi during Lent and asked him to accept her so that she could follow him. However, at this time in the history of the Church, the only possibility to do so was under the form of strict cloister or what today we would term the formal contemplative life. Therefore Francis initially placed Clare with the Benedictine Sisters until she and her other Sisters became the Poor Ladies of San Damiano (now known as the Poor Clares) living in a monastery at the San Damiano Chapel. As time went on, she had to defend their way of life as different from the form of other cloistered women. She fought to live poorly without owning property and, having written their Rule herself—the first ever by a woman—it was approved by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, two days before her death. Since then, numerous communities of religious women, now engaged in various forms of apostolic ministry, have been founded under the umbrella of Francis’ vision and spirituality.
While all of this was developing among the men and women outlined above, others who saw their vocation not as celibate men and women but as married and single laity in the Church also wanted to find a way they could live more faithfully according to the spirit of Francis and Clare. They did not see themselves living in community as the Friars and Sisters did, but they asked Francis to assist them in some way as well. Their story will continue next week in the bulletin.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
In a few weeks, we will celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, which marks the beginning of the Church. Today’s readings offer a sense of the spread of the Church and what the Lord calls each of us to do.
The reading from Acts shows Paul and Barnabas concluding their first missionary journey by returning to the Church of Antioch that had authorized their mission. On their journey, they set up structures of leadership to empower and encourage their new communities “to persevere in the faith” in view of the inevitable hardships and persecutions to come.
The Book of Revelation reminds us of our future hopes, when creation is renewed and the old world of hardship gives way to a glorious future. “He (God) will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God.” The Resurrection offers us a foretaste of this promised union with God.
In bidding farewell to his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus offers encouragement by summarizing for them his teaching during his three-year ministry. Jesus’ central message is captured in these words: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” His sacrificial death for humanity provides the model for how we are to love others. In this sense, it is a new commandment that challenges Christ’s followers to embrace, at the heart of love, a sacrifice for others. Jesus left us this legacy of sacrificial love and calls on followers to live it out in their lives. Sacrificial love becomes the mark of disciples.
In the reading from Revelation today, we hear the voice from the throne say, “Behold, I make all things new.” As we celebrate the sacraments, we are made new in Christ, and from the liturgy we go into the world to do the work of Christ. “The liturgy in its turn moves the faithful, filled with ‘the paschal sacraments,’ to be ‘one in holiness’; it prays that ‘they may hold fast in their lives to what they have grasped by their faith’; the renewal in the eucharist of the covenant between the Lord and his people draws the faithful into the compelling love of Christ and sets them on fire” (Sacrosanctum concilium, #10).
Hearing of the travels of Paul and Barnabas in the First Reading, from Acts, we are struck by how their lives are united with the mission of Christ. They have taken up the mission that the Father gave to Christ to spread the news of God’s love. “The Church’s mission stands in continuity with the mission of Christ: ‘As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ From the perpetuation of the sacrifice of the Cross and her communion with the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, the Church draws the spiritual power needed to carry out her mission” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #22).
The reading from Acts tells of the travels of Paul and Barnabas as they spread the Gospel from city to city. These disciples told the Church in Antioch of how God “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” At first, we might wonder what that means; however, Pope Francis was clear on the meaning of evangelization in The Joy of the Gospel. He states, “To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world” (#176).
For Your Reflection: How have you encouraged a person in ministry who has become disheartened? Would realizing that God dwells within each person impact how you regard others? What does it mean to love one another as Jesus loved us?
RENEW MY CHURCH
Even though we at St. Peter’s have not yet officially entered the Renew My Church process (it is estimated that our cluster of Holy Name Cathedral, Assumption, Old St. Pat’s, Old St. Mary’s, and St. Peter’s will be activated c. 2023), I want to remind you that unofficially individuals from each of these parishes have been meeting every several months in order to discuss how we might better work together to address the needs of our area. You might remember that we all joined together last November to have at least one event at each location to celebrate the World Day of the Poor, and that was very successful. We continue to stay in communication with each other to advertise events of interest at each parish that others might want to participate in. We are also looking at new initiatives that we might co-sponsor together for the good of the people who either live in the Loop or who frequent the Loop for work, shopping or recreation. As you might imagine, these projects often take some months to develop and plan before they will actually happen.
It is important for all of us to listen to the words of Pope Francis and to apply them to our particular circumstances:
One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in the
faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable
them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel
in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying
forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and
institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the
possibilities which the Spirit opens to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel,
daily and in every season of our life.
WELCOME, BR. PAUL SHINOK KANG, O.F.M.
Please welcome a new friar to our Franciscan community: Br. Paul Shinok Kang, from the Franciscan Province of the Korean Martyrs in South Korea. Br. Paul is an accomplished musician who has composed some pieces and has directed a number of choral concerts throughout his home province. For eleven years he was stationed at our Franciscan General Curia in Rome where he helped in various capacities and where he learned Italian. He will be with us until December of this year to learn English by both going to a language school here in the Loop and by practicing his conversational skills with us in the friary. Please make him feel at home as he learns more about our American ways and enjoys our hospitality.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE EASTER SEASON
Several days ago as I left a meeting at our church, I desperately gave myself a personal TSA pat down. I was looking for my keys. They were not in my pockets. A quick search in the meeting room revealed nothing. Suddenly I realized that I must have left them in the car. Frantically I headed for the parking lot.
My wife, Diane, has scolded me many times for leaving the keys in the ignition. My theory is the ignition is the best place not to lose them. Her theory is that the car will be stolen. As I burst through the doors of the church, I came to a terrifying conclusion: her theory was right. The parking lot was empty. I immediately called the police. I gave them my location, confessing that I had left the keys in the car and that it had been stolen.
Then I made the most difficult call of all. “Honey,” I stammered. I always call her “honey” in times like these. “I left my keys in the car, and it has been stolen.”
There was a period of silence. I thought the call had been dropped, but then I heard Diane’s voice. “Ken,” she barked, “I dropped you off!”
Now it was my time to be silent. Embarrassed, I said, “Well, come and get me.”
Diane retorted, “I will, as soon as I convince this policeman I have not stolen your car!”