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:

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Feast of St Francis: OFM Appeal for Syria

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May the Lord grant you peace on this feast day of our Holy Father Francis!
And on this great feast the Friars Minor have launched this urgent appeal calling for the designation of Aleppo, and other places in Syria, as Safe Zones. The appeal is co-signed by the Minister General Fr. Michael A. Perry OFM and by the Custos of the Holy Land Fr. Francesco Patton OFM.
In particular – note Fr. Perry and Fr. Patton – the establishment of a security zone around Aleppo “would allow the whole population, worn down by the terrible effects of the conflict, to receive essential humanitarian aid without discrimination, to find safety and security, and to recover some trust and hope in a speedy solution, which would be motivated by peace alone”. The Religious Superiors also pledge their prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria. Through their closeness and practical service to all those weighed down by the harrowing consequences of the conflict, the friars have shown themselves to be true “good Samaritans”.
Currently there are about fifteen Friars Minor in Syria. Among them, in addition to the religious dispersed in Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia, there are two friars who continue to carry out their pastoral service in Knayeh, Yacoubieh and Jdeideh, in the villages of the Orontes valley, subject to the domination of jihadist forces, where some hundreds of baptized continue to live, pray and attend Masses celebrated in the three Catholic parishes stripped of the bells, crosses and statues of saints. The two friars who are with them are the only priests and religious Christians left in the lands where jihadist militias dictate laws.
May we secular franciscans also pledge our prayers and support to “our confrères who courageously continue to live in Syria”.
To read the message as a pdf see here.
For more information on the work of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land see here and here.
The full Agenzia Fides report on the launch of the appeal is here.
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A thought for today from the National Minister

Today in England is the Feast of Margaret Clitherow, Anne Line and Margaret Ward. These three martyrs gave active support to many priests and faithful Catholics during the Reformation.
The Breviary has been taking us through the writings of the Prophets recently, others from past history who devoted their lives to bringing the truth of the will of God to the attention of those who were seeking their own way, not God’s, and leading the chosen people away from the Covenant relationship.
This Jubilee Year of Mercy has been reminding us that God is always ready to welcome back those who have lost their way. God remains steadfast and faithful forever.
God asks us to be co-workers in the Kingdom of God wherever we find ourselves. These are just a few reminders of the constant need to call on God, first for discernment, and then for the graces we need, to serve Him faithfully for as long as we remain pilgrims in this world.
These reminders serve also to help us keep things in perspective. This is far from the only period of uncertainty, instability and fear of the future that affects even people of faith, hope and love. The difference now is that we know much more about what is happening even in the most distant and remote of places. The information we have access to is often unfiltered and immediate and is therefore raw. In past times there was a process of editing and doctoring. This process was open to abuse but revision and editing meant some accountability and demanded reflection I believe we have yet to learn how to manage the constant stream of images and opinions that rain down on us every day. The mass of material in itself can make us feel powerless and overwhelmed.
On September 1st we are asked to pray for the care of creation. This year we could include prayers for our human brothers and sisters who are suffering in so many different ways throughout the world.

Paula

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A Month in the Jubilee Year of Mercy Month from the National Minister

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I was delighted to be at the Cardiff weekend which was excellent.
The following weekend a few of us gathered at Pantasaph where I presented a weekend on this theme, which I adapted to present at a lovely gathering of our Scottish Regional the following week. On Tuesday 24th I had the joy of hearing the Redemptorist, Fr Jim McManus, give a day on mercy as part of the Bishops’ Conference Spirituality Consultation and this was wonderful too.
Another opportunity to teach again occurred when I was asked to present a day to the Spirituality Network of the C of E Diocese of Rochester last Saturday, introducing St Francis, the Franciscan Charism and elements of the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition – a small ask! It went very well.
I have now constructed a very adaptable resource on what the Year of Mercy might mean for us Franciscans which I would like to offer. Please let me know if you think there would be sufficient interest in your regions and invite me! We are not restricted to one year for building gin this year. I am thinking of using Barton for day/evening adaptations during times when I plan to be based there.
Whether this happens or not I wanted to share just a couple of points from the presentations with OFSGB members. Please pass this to any members you think might be interested.

Mercy has a much richer meaning that we generally give it today. A summary from Pope Francis:

“Etymologially ‘mercy’ derives from misericordis which means opening one’s heart to wretchedness. Mercy is the divine attitude which embraces it. It is God giving himself to us, accepting us and bowing to forgive.’

St Francis often refers to us as “miserable”. Miserable, the same root, has a much broader significance than we tend to give it – it can be applied to any experience of poverty, corporal or spiritual; to anything that causes me dis – ease; anything that takes me away from my relationship with God and neighbour. St Francis refers to us as miserable, in need of God’s grace, limited in our capacity to transform our wretched state. Only God is perfectly merciful. God sees into the heart of a person, knows what is causing that person’s specific misery or wretchedness and accepts each person, always ready to bow down and show mercy.

In my preparation for the presentations I was drawn to the encyclical (Rich in Mercy) of St John Paul II, 1980. I recommend this to everyone and believe that we are very fortunate to have Pope Francis with his down to earth, practical approach. This can lead us to want to rediscover other writings on mercy and see them fresh eyes. I found John Paul II’s reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son had great relevance for me. I give just a little taste of his conclusions:

* Mercy does not belittle the receiver

* Mercy does not offend the dignity of the human person

* A relationship of mercy is not a relationship of inequality, the giver is on no way superior to the receiver

Pope Francis writes about visceral love of God – the love of a parent in difficult times is perhaps as close as we get to this– it gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.
Pope Francis also writes that mercy is a key word, that indicates God’s action towards us and makes God’s love visible and tangible. God desires our well-being, and that we are joyful and peaceful.
I find great encouragement in the examples Pope Francis gave in the Name of God is Mercy to explain that God is looking for even the smallest opening – this book is very worth reading. A small taste of his conclusions:

* God waits; God waits for us to concede him only the smallest glimmer of space so that he can enact his forgiveness and charity within us…The place where my encounter with the mercy of God takes place is my sin

* When you let yourself be embraced, when you are moved – that’s when life can change because that’s when we try to respond to the immense and unexpected gift of grace

* We stand before God who knows our sins, our betrayals, our denials, our wretchedness.

Paula ofs May 2016.

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OFS Scotland Regional Assembly 2016

OFS Scotland members and guests enjoyed their Regional Assembly in Perth on Saturday 14th May. Paula Pearce, Nationa Minister, spoke on the challenging theme of Mercy in the light of Pope Francis’ writings and the life of St Francis. A fraternal gathering of open hearts.

 

Regional Assembly Perth May 14 2016 (6) edit

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The Loving Mercy of God

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Fr. Francis Dor OFM Cap celebrating the mass at the OFSGB national elective chapter at Wistaston Hall last autumn.

The life of St Francis of Assisi was transformed when he recognised the loving mercy of God in
his life and this led him to desire that everyone might experience God’s mercy. Perhaps the “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” weekend in Cardiff starting this Friday is for you. Francis Dor OFM Cap, our Capuchin General Spiritual Assistant, will be coming from Rome, where he is based, in order to be with us. If you would like to join us, do contact Angela Bradley. There should still be places available. See here for details, a booking form, and the programme.
Another option is the And I showed Mercy to Them weekend “Exploring the Richness of God’s Mercy” led by Paula Pearce, our National Minister at Pantasaph Retreat Centre from 6th to 8th May, 2016. A Pantasaph booking form can be found here.

Brothers & Sisters: Building Bridges (Pope Francis on Lesbos: 16/04/2016)
Pope Francis’ five-hour visit to Greece on 16th April ended with him offering safe passage to Italy to 12 Syrian Muslims, half under the age of 18. The Vatican will assume financial responsibility for the families, who will be assisted by the Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio.
“Wake us from the slumber of indifference,” the pope prayed, “open our eyes to their suffering and free us from the insensitivity born of world comfort and self-centeredness.” In his prayer Pope Francis insisted “we are all migrants, journeying in hope” toward God in heaven.
Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople and Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens and all Greece stood with Pope Francis and they, too, offered prayers.
Poe Francis praised the people of Lesbos for showing that “in these lands, the cradle of civilization, the heart of humanity continues to beat; a humanity that before all else recognizes others as brothers and sisters, a humanity that wants to build bridges and recoils from the idea of putting up walls to make us feel safer. In reality, barriers create divisions instead of promoting the true progress of peoples, and divisions sooner or later lead to confrontations.”

Being a Resurrection Community: ‘Straining forward to what lies ahead’
Continuing the theme of Mercy and also referring to divisions in brotherhood, some of you may have missed this powerful call to an evangelical life, to being a Resurrection community that was made by Fr Michael Perry OFM in his Easter Letter of the Minister General 2016
“There should not be any brother in the world who has sinned, who after he has looked into your eyes, would go away without having received your mercy.”(Letter to a Minister, 9) Yes, brothers, as Pope Francis urges us: “it is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that awakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope.”(Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, 10)
Fr Michael says: In a particular way, this jubilee year of mercy is summoning us as Franciscans to transcend the divisions in our brotherhood that have arisen over our long history.
He quotes Biblical scholar Gerhard Lohfink: “[Being] a Resurrection community means anticipating that at every hour the Spirit of Christ will show the community new paths, expecting new doors to open at any moment, counting on it that at any hour the Spirit can transform evil into good, hoping that every hour the impossible will become possible, and never saying “later!” but always “now!”

At a Cinema near You: RISEN. Some said that he is risen… What if it is true?
RISEN was released in UK cinemas on March 18th. The Capuchin Franciscans of GB, on their facebook page, said: “A film worth watching. We travelled 80 miles to see it. The tomb is empty… and it is awesome!”
The film is an account of Jesus’ resurrection as seen through the eyes of an unbeliever. It follows Clavius, a high-ranking Roman military tribune and his aide Lucius, who are instructed by Pontius Pilate to ensure that Jesus’ radical followers don’t steal His body and claim resurrection. When the body goes missing within days, Clavius’ mission is to find the body, dispel rumors of a risen Messiah and prevent an uprising in Jerusalem. You will find a trailer here, here a review, and here a list of cinemas across the UK which will be showing the film. Note that “These listings are correct at the time of being published”, which was 14th March.

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And I showed Mercy to Them

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Paula addressing the delegates at the National Elective Chapter of OFSGB at the Oblate Retreat Centre, Crewe, in September 2015

And I showed Mercy to Them is a weekend “Exploring the Richness of God’s Mercy” led by Paula Pearce, our National Minister at Pantasaph Retreat Centre from 6th to 8th May, 2016. A Pantasaph booking form can be found here.
The life of St Francis of Assisi was transformed when he recognised the loving mercy of God in
his life and this led him to desire that everyone might experience God’s mercy.

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You may also care to revisit Paula’s recent post on the National Seat. The document she referred to on why we have to have a national seat has now been included.

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There was something we failed to mention in the “Easter greeting from Tibor Kauser, Minister General of the OFS, ” post that was made last night. Paula has asked if we can pass this message on so that it gets to as many of our members as possible (All?) and as soon as possible. Thank you, Good People! As a bonus we have now added to that post a photo of Tibor taken during our National Elective Chapter at Crewe last September.
 

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An Easter greeting from Tibor Kauser, Minister General of the OFS

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Tibor Kauser at the National Elective Chapter of OFSGB at the Oblate Retreat Centre, Crewe, in September 2015

We have posted here an Easter greeting from Tibor Kauser, Minister General of the OFS, that was mailed out today by CIOFS on behalf of the International Fraternity. Please do read it. It is good.
In it Tibor says: “In this letter I’d like to invite you to fill our joy of Easter with the decision to be more committed to be witnesses of the resurrection, delivering the love of the merciful Heavenly Father.”
“All along this year of mercy, our life has to be characterized by this being merciful. And what else could better build our fraternities than this divine mercy?”
He continues: “And I do believe that nothing can build a true fraternity better than the mercy of God that invites us to be merciful.”
Tibor writes: “In this spirit, I invite you this Easter to study and live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, particularly in our fraternities, but also whenever and wherever we are working in the world.” so that we can “build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively. (Rule 14.)”

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Pope Francis: Intensify the Inner Journey of Conversion.

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We are well into Lent now, but Pope Francis, in his Angelus address last weekend (6th March) called upon the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square to “intensify the inner journey of conversion” as Easter approaches. He said this while reflecting on the parable of the prodigal son. For each of us this “intensification” will be different. Perhaps the 2016 Lenten homilies given by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa might help us. Zenit have made available in English the four homilies he has given this Lent to date (here as pdf). The remaining homilies will be added as they are given. Or we may still wish to sign up to receive by daily email these succinct Lenten reflections on brief scripture passages, together with review questions. They have been put together by the Southwark diocesan Stewardship Team in collaboration with the diocesan Spirituality Commission. Paula Pearce, our National Minister, is a member of this team.

There are still places available for the Cardiff event with Francis Dor OFM Cap, our Capuchin General Spiritual Assistant who will be coming from Rome, where he is based, in order to be with us. Called “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response”, it runs from 29th April to 1st May. See here for details and a booking form.

This is an update on the very difficult situation of the Calais migrants, that was issued by email on 4th March. See also the Seeking Sanctuary website: scroll down for the latest news and their urgent update. They have made it very easy to buy something online as a contribution.

A note on adjusting the size of the type on the website so that it is comfortable for you to read can be found here.
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