Children Praying for Peace

children-for-peace

Michael Martin, of our Oxford fraternity, has alerted us to a letter “Children praying for peace” from the Minister General of the OFM (Fr. Michael Perry OFM), and from the new Custos of the Holy Land (Fr. Francesco Patton OFM). The letter was posted on the First Sunday of Advent on both the OFM website, and on the website of the Custodia Terrae Sanctae (The Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land).

The letter is addressed “to all the friars of the Order of Friars Minor, to the Poor Clares, to the sisters to the brothers of the Secular Franciscan Order, and to all women and men of good will.”

This text follows Fr. Michael’s recent message, at the time of the feast of St Francis, regarding Syria and Aleppo, which we posted here.

A PDF of the letter, which you may download, is available here.

children-in-aleppo

Fathers Michael and Francesco say in the letter that they wish to join, and “want to propose to all our communities”, the “Children praying for peace” initiative that began with “Aid to the Church in Need.” They say that “our Parish of St. Francis in Aleppo, which has been strongly affected by the tragedy of war and which has been tenaciously anchored to its hope for peace, has already joined the initiative. From Aleppo, we are now sending out our invitation to the whole world.”

“We believe that the Lord hears the cry of the “little ones” and that their prayer will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.”

“We are asking each community to dedicate their children’s mass, or the mass most frequented by children, on the first Sunday of every month, to prayer for peace, according to what is locally possible. The same thing can be done in a celebration during the Oratory or by involving the schools, thus, in this way giving an ecumenical and interreligious spirit to the initiative. If a community does not have a children’s liturgy or if it does not have a ministry for Oratories or a school, it can make the gesture during the communal Praises or Vespers, or on an occasion created especially for this initiative.”

They offer, in the letter, some practical suggestions using the example of how it is done in Aleppo.

They ask all those who take heed to their proposal to report it on to their Facebook page “Children in prayer for peace” which is based at St Francis parish, Aleppo.

If you do not have access to facebook, then add a comment to this post mentioning your community’s response to the initiative, which we can pass on to them, to assure them of the solidarity of the various communities / fraternities that make up the Secular Franciscan Order in Great Britain.

As Fathers Michael and Francesco mention, “Children Praying for Peace” is an Aid to the Church in Need initiative. In May this year Aid to the Church in Need reported that children from Syria’s different Christian denominations (Catholic and Orthodox) would be joining together to pray for peace in that country on International Children’s Day.

And on 7th October Aid to the Church in Need reported that More than one million children in Syria have been calling for peace as part of a fresh appeal to political leaders to end the violence engulfing the country. “At least 2,000 schools from many parts of Syria are taking part in the initiative in which youngsters have been drawing pictures and writing messages for the attention of the United Nations in Geneva and the European Union in Brussels. Children of all denominations in the capital, Damascus, as well as in Homs, Yabroud, Marmarita as well as Aleppo have been taking part in the Peace for Children initiative with songs, dances, drama and prayer, all calling for peace.”

Aid to the Church in Need project partners including Aleppo-based Sister Annie Demerjian have stressed the number of traumatised children, with many experiencing violence, sexual exploitation, abduction and the loss of loved ones. Sister Annie Demerjian (pictured below), was recently in London at an Aid to the Church in Need event, and spoke of the extremely difficult conditions they faced in Aleppo.

Fathers Michael and Francesco suggest that the prayers of the “little ones” will become an opportunity for reflection and conversion for those who are “big.” Grown-Ups wishing to add their prayers to those of the children may find an additional resource on this page.

Sister Annie Demerjian:

sister-annie

Children from Al Nouzha, Homs showing pictures of the Infant of Prague which they drew in Catechism classes – from Aid to the Church in Need:

children-homs

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Update: the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera; Other Matters.

At the foot of this post you will find the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, mentioned by Paula in her Advent greeting posted here earlier. The Letter was given by Pope Francis on 20 November, the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Misericordia et misera is a phrase used by Saint Augustine in recounting the story of Jesus’ meeting with the woman taken in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11).

Have you booked yet for the 2017 OFSGB National Assembly entitled “Upon This Rock: Rebuild My Church” which will be held in Gibraltar from Friday 21st April to Monday 24th April 2017. Those who book later may well have to pay more to the airline for a flight. This is a great opportunity to meet the successful and growing Gibraltar fraternity, the largest fraternity in OFSGB, numbering about sixty. Gibraltar fully supported the Youth Gather held at Cold Ash, and has already established a Young Franciscan Group.

Please note that Come and See is a brief introduction to the OFS that fraternities may print, fold and distribute in churches and at public meetings. It may also be given to visitors attending meetings for the first time.

Initial Formation: We hope that everyone has now had an opportunity to review and make use of the Initial Formation material for candidates that is introduced here.

Note that we have these pages on the website that members may use to update us all:

Anniversaries: Fraternities may notify us of members anniversaries by adding a comment to this “Anniversaries” post which can be easily accessed at any time, either in the near future, or many months hence, by going to the right hand sidebar of the website, scrolling down to the heading “Categories” and clicking on the category “Anniversaries”. Or notify us by an email to info@ofsgb.org .

Requiescant in Pace: This is a post that we may use to notify each other of the deaths of our members. Please do so by including your text as a comment to this post, which can also be easily accessed at any time, in this case by clicking on the category “Requiescant in Pace”.

Perfect Computer Joy: Members with technical computer issues may use this post. To find it click on the category “Website”.

We hope to introduce a similar “general” page entitled “Members Musings”, and another page “Reviews” where members can share the titles of books and articles that they have found interesting in their spiritual development. And not only Books and Articles. We could share Music, Cinema also. Would members like to have this facility?

This post “On Using This Website” may also be of use to many.

And here follows the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera:

Download

 

 

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Advent Thoughts from National Minister

Season’s greetings to everyone.  Here are a few thoughts from Paula ofs, National Minister.

We are into the Advent season already and the Year of Jubilee is almost upon us.

If you have not yet done so, search for the Jubilee Year of Mercy website and you will find the logo, an eplanation of the logo and lots of resources.  The following is a paraphrased explanation of the logo:

The Son taking the lost soul on his shoulders.  We see the love of Christ as the Good Shepherd who wants to touch our lives.  He takes humanity upon himself yet his eyes and that of the lost soul’s merge.  All can find their humanity in Christ.

The concentric ovals suggest the movement of Christ who carries humanity out of the night of sin and death.  The deeper colour suggests the impenetrability of the love of the Father who forgives all.

Pope Francis’ Bull of Indiction #2 gives us an idea of the richness of the meaning of “Mercy”.

“We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.  It is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace.  Our salvation depends on it.  The word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental las that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.  Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

The experience of God’s unconditional love and mercy changed Francis of Assisi’s life forever and it a message he wanted everyone to hear.  He spent his life spreading this message of joy.  Pope Francis is giving us a renewed opportunity to be radically changed in this special year.  There is a lot of material that has been produced to help us on this journey.
First to remind ourselves of some instances in which mercy is at the heart from the life and writings of Francis.

From the Life of Francis, Celano 1, Chap III #6 and #7

He prayed with all his heart that the eternal and true God guide his way and teach him to do his will. He endured great suffering in his soul…different thought followed one after another and their relentlessness seriously disturbed him.  He was burning inwardly with a divine fire…He repented that he had sinned..he was not yet fully confident of refraining from future ones… One day when he had invoked the Lord’s mercy with his whole heart, the Lord showed him what he must do.  He was filled with such great joy, failing to restrain himself in the face of his happiness.

 

The Testament

And the Lord Himself led me among them (lepers) and I showed mercy to them.  And when I left them what was bitter in me was turned into sweetness of soul and body

 

From The Letter to a Minister

I wish to know in this way if you love the Lord and me… that there is not any brother in the world who has sinned, who after he has looked into your eyes, would ever depart without mercy, if he is looking for mercy. And if he were not looking for mercy you would ask if he wants mercy….. always be merciful with brothers such as these.

 

Advent 2015

The Sunday readings for the First Sunday of Advent include parts of one of the psalms of mercy, psalm 24 (25).

This psalm, these memories of Francis and our world situation today made me think how little human history has changed us.  Just as we have been made so conscious recently of enemies who cannot see things the way we do, these remind me of how true this has always been.  Faith in our merciful good God, the example of Francis, now the inspiration of Pope Francis, provide us with encouragement as we seek to grow in trust and love of God.

Just as the psalmist turned to God to show the way, teach him the right path, to walk in God’s truth and recognised God as Saviour, so Advent is a time of preparing for the coming of our Saviour, the Way, the Teacher, Goodness, Justice, Friend, the new Covenant.  The Psalm mentions the humble and the poor, the characteristics that would inspire Francis and we see in our Pope Francis today.

As the psalmist brought God’s mercy to mind at a time of earnest supplication, I understand that he is writing, late in life, about enemies within and without.  He is repentant of his own sin.  Also he is seeking comfort and refuge in God, from the people in the world around him who have turned to other gods and make fun of his faith.  He finds certain comfort in the constancy and refuge of the one God in Whom he has faith and hope.  He knows that God is always ready to offer compassion and mercy for those who wait for Him and try to follow His ways.  He believes that God will always offer a covenant, will always be faithful.  The history of his people show him that this is true. God reveals all that each one needs to sustain those who trust and believe in Him.  The psalmist was able to recall many experiences, from history, that reveal God’s mercy at times of earnest supplication.

One book I have been reading, “The Parables of Mercy”, one of the several Pastoral Resources for Living the Jubilee, has the following on page 20-21:

“ As for compassion and merciful love,  the Lord acts with a maternal womb and knows how to love with the same intensity that a woman  loves her own child.  This kind of mercy characterizes the intimacy of God’s action and is a characteristic ‘from of old’. A characteristic written into God’s DNA so to speak.”

The psalm opened with the Psalmist lifting his soul, his entire being to God.  The Church chose this as the opening prayer for Advent, Sunday, Year C.  Our Francis and Pope Francis exhort us to do the same, to enter into a time of repentance, renewal and thanksgiving, praying with our whole heart and soul to God to show us His will and His way.  All these sources reveal and give witness to their faith in our steadfast, merciful and loving God.    May we grow and be strengthened in faith, love and mercy as we enter this exciting, challenging year of opportunity.

May God bless you and all those dear to you during this Advent Season and throughout the Jubilee Year.

Paula, 1sr December 2015.

 

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