Here are Paula’s notes for her introductory talk at our recent Chapter in Gibraltar, together with her report on the Chapter.
The programme for the National Assembly to be held in Gibraltar in April is now available. We are delighted that every region is represented. There may still be places available should others wish to attend. It seems that the Extra Costs will now be only £40, and not £110 as originally expected. This is to help meet the costs of the Speaker and Spiritual Assistants and the catering for the weekend. We believe that the Gibraltar Fraternity will revitalise everyone who comes. We know they have devoted a huge amount of time and energy to make this unique experience uplifting and successful.
And in September Paula Pearce will lead a Living in Faith in Daily Life weekend retreat at Pantasaph Friary. Details may be found here.
Formation: We hope you are making good use of the excellent formation material that our national formation minister, John Power, has provided. John is also now working on material for Ongoing Formation.
South Wales and South West region have an interesting programme of events for 2017, and perhaps members from other regions might like to join them. Many from other regions will recall that in 2016 South Wales and South West offered the excellent “The Holy Year of Mercy and our Franciscan Response” weekend in Cardiff.
London Region have a Youfra initiative with an event in April: Working together to build Peace in our families, schools, colleges, universities, workplaces, our nation, our world…..and ourselves. See the hurt of the world and want to respond in the way of Peace, Joy, Hope, Love, Good….? There are many ways to be involved: pray for this initiative; publicise it; support one-off events; or join us in our year of monthly meetings/activities, growing together as we explore our Christian life in the Franciscan spirit.
Come and See: Friday 28th April 2017, 6.30pm-8pm Our Lady of the Rosary Church Hall, Brixton.
Get in touch and keep in touch: Facebook: Franciscan Youth UK
and on Twitter: @YouFraLondon
Email – YouFraLondon@aol.co.uk
If young people from other OFSGB regions want to make contact for resources etc, please get in touch.
The latest Southern Region newsletter “Viewpoint” is just in. There is much interesting material in the newsletters that the various regions provide.
East Anglian Region are drawing our attention to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales initiative referred to as the Holy Land Co-ordination.
After a recent visit the CBCEW say that “In 2017 we see a land of tension and division, walls and suspicion.” They invite us to “Take Action”, one suggestion being contact with our MP’s. David Gleave of East Anglian region says: “They have provided a pro-forma letter, so it is quite easy to share their message with your MP – all you have to do is provide your name and address.”
Since 1998, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has organised an annual meeting of the Co-ordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church of the Holy Land. Mandated by the Holy See, an international delegation of bishops meets in the region every January to act in solidarity with the Christian communities there and to share in the pastoral life of the local Church as it experiences extreme political and social-economic pressure.
Our North East Region are energetically drawing our attention to a charity ride in memory of the much loved Michael Almond, of the Leeds fraternity, who died last year.
South East Region have details of the funeral arrangements for Declan Walsh ofs, dearly missed Minister of the Croydon fraternity. The Requiem will take place on Friday 31 March 2017 at Our Lady of the Rosary, 2 St Barnabas Road, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 4NL at 10.00 hrs. Followed by burial at Greenlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Warlingham, and a reception at The Horseshoe Pub, Warlingham. The region are suggesting donations to the OFS Barton project instead of flowers.
A further update may follow with news from Scotland, the North West Region, and the Midland Region.
Paula has written a second text this Lent, covering a variety of topics: the Barton Project, the Gibraltar National Assembly, Our Challenging World, the OFSGB website, a September weekend retreat at Pantasaph which she will lead (details of which are here), and a national Formation Weekend planned for October. Read on.
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 email@example.com .
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?
And here follows the Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera:
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.
Just a quick reminder that you will find a novena of prayer which can be done beginning on that day under Mission and then Presence in the World on this website. Thanks to Debbie for preparing this and to Helen for putting it on Facebook National Fraternity.
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.