Saint Francis of Assisi writes:
“All those who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength [cf. Mt 12:30], and love their neighbor as themselves [cf. Mt 22:38] and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance:
“Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them… (I Letter to All the Faithful, 1-5).
“We Friars Minor, servants and worthless as we are, humbly beg and implore everyone to persevere in the true faith and in a live of penance; there is no other way to be saved” (1221 Rule, 23).
The Church prays:
God our Father,
teach us to find new life through penance.
Turn our hearts to you.
By seeking your kingdom
and loving one another,
may we become a people who worship you
in spirit and truth.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Masses of the 2nd Monday & 1st Saturday of Lent)
When the Secular Franciscan Order began, our original name was the “Brothers and Sisters of Penance“. As we continue this journey of formation in the life of the Secular Franciscan Order to wherever it may lead, we need to desire to be people of penance. Men and women reflecting of the call to be a penitent people … striving to be not only free from sin, but people living the Gospel of Christ and inviting others to do the same.
Though we are constantly called to do penance during Lent, to go to confession, to make amends or to atone for our sins, is this really what Saints Francis and Clare had in mind? My guess is probably not. Rather, they desired their followers – these Brothers and Sisters of Penance – to enter fully into the magnificent life that God has to offer through the grace of his Son, Jesus the Christ. This life that Jesus, Francis and Clare call us to is a life of great joy, a life of great relationship that allows us to enter into relationship with the Trinity and with the Church.
The Greek term for this action is perichoresis. This intimate fellowship manifested in the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which we are invited into. In a sense, this invitation to an intimate dance in which we are invited to engage. I saw this best recently when I was at the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. On this Shabbat or Sabbath evening, as various communities began to engage in prayer, the joy and life that was expressed as their minyans began to dance. They were filled with the hope and presence of God, not out of some obligation but in relationship. We are invited into this relationship of penance. We are called not only to do penance for our since, but by the gift of grace we are called to enter into this joy-filled intimate friendship and fellowship with God. It is a conscious choice that we have to make, just as these men did at the Western Wall.
We enter into this perichoresis, or this life of penance, by loving God with our whole heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is living the Gospel life. This is about a two-sided relationship that we enter into. It is not just about our relationship with God, but about our relationship with others, ourselves and with all creation. It is the same relationship that Pope Francis calls us to enter into with all creation in his encyclical, Laudato Si’. It is this life of relationship, this life of change, this life of challenge, this life of love and grace that we enter into as penitent people. It is choosing charity over want or desire, choosing others over self, and choosing care for all creation over material things. This life is dynamic and alive, ever-growing and changing us into the people of forgiveness that we are called to become.
We now have a Blog entitled: “Community Bonding-Life as a Secular Franciscan.” Please visit often and post your thoughts and comments.
Blog address: http://www.Communitybondings.blogspot.com
Director of Formation
Most Holy Name Fraternity