First World Day of the Poor: Encountering Christ

Pope_Francis_washes_the_feet_of_migrants_and_refugees_during_Holy_Thursday_Mass_March_24_2016_Credit_CTV_Screenshot_CNA

World-Day-Of-the-Poor-Logo-redraw-01-243x300

Encountering Christ: “A Renewed Personal Encounter with Jesus Christ”
Pope Francis declared last Sunday, 19th November, the Thirty-Third (and penultimate) Sunday of Ordinary Time, to be the first World Day of the Poor.

In November last year, on the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Pope Francis published his Apostolic Letter “Misericordia et Misera” to conclude 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)]. In that letter [Section 21] the Pope wrote: “… I had the idea that, as yet another tangible sign of this Extraordinary Holy Year, the entire Church might celebrate, on the Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor. This would be the worthiest way to prepare for the celebration of the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy (cf. Mt 25:31-46). It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes (cf. Lk 16:19-21), there can be no justice or social peace. This Day will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church as She perseveres in her perennial activity of pastoral conversion and witness to mercy.”

Then, in June this year, on the memorial of St Anthony of Padua, the Pope released a message “First World Day of the Poor” in which he developed his ideas about this day.

Resources have been prepared by Caritas Social Action Network, at, we understand, the request The Bishops Conference of England and Wales.

Beyond these useful resources, we may well, as secular franciscans, address the deeper teaching of Pope Francis in this message, and in “Misericordia et Misera”, that this day “will also represent a genuine form of new evangelization (cf. Mt 11:5) which can renew the face of the Church.”

St Francis and the Lepers: “Transformative Power”
Pope Francis refers to St Francis: “He was not satisfied to embrace lepers and give them alms, but chose to go to Gubbio to stay with them.  He saw this meeting as the turning point of his conversion …”. The Pope then alludes to the transformative power of this experience. We are called to “a true encounter with the poor and a sharing that becomes a way of life”.

Pope Francis continues: “If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. Saint John Chrysostom’s admonition remains ever timely: “If you want to honour the body of Christ, do not scorn it when it is naked; do not honour the Eucharistic Christ with silk vestments, and then, leaving the church, neglect the other Christ suffering from cold and nakedness”

This echoes what the Pope said in Evangelii Gaudium: the invitation he gave us in section 3 “to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her … “. Likewise, our secular franciscan rule (article 5) invites us “to seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ …”

Saint Francis and his “Witness of Authentic Poverty”.
Pope Francis also says of the poor: “Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge the value of poverty in itself.” And: “Let us never forget that, for Christ’s disciples, poverty is above all a call to follow Jesus in his own poverty.” “Let us, then, take as our example Saint Francis and his witness of authentic poverty.  Precisely because he kept his gaze fixed on Christ, Francis was able to see and serve him in the poor.”

Community Building, Fraternity Building: “Creating Moments of Encounter and Friendship, Solidarity and Concrete Assistance”.
Pope Francis says: “It is my wish that, in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor, …. Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.” And is this not also the way we may build our OFS fraternities and make them stronger, the strong foundation from which we may go out and plant new fraternities, and not only “in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor”?

“Personal Encounter with the Saving Love of Jesus”
Pope Francis also addresses this point about creating moments of “encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance” in section 264 of Evangelii Gaudium: “The primary reason for evangelizing” [creating moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance, whether with the materially poor or with the spiritually poor] “is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence. Standing before him with open hearts, letting him look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel glimpsed on the day when Jesus said to him: “I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48). How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life! What then happens is that “we speak of what we have seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3).”

Lectio Divina
Pope Francis continues section 264 of Evangelii Gaudium with a call to a form of Lectio Divina: “The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us. But if this is to come about, we need to recover a contemplative spirit which can help us to realize ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others.” See also our OFS Rule: articles 4 and 8.
Then, in section 265 of Evangelii Gaudium, we are told: “Jesus’ whole life, his way of dealing with the poor, his actions, his integrity, his simple daily acts of generosity, and finally his complete self-giving, is precious and reveals the mystery of his divine life. Whenever we encounter this anew, we become convinced that it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it … ” To echo that last expression: ” …it is exactly what others need, even though they may not recognize it … ”

Conversion, Renewal: “Our Own Constantly Renewed Experience of Savouring Christ’s Friendship”
“But this conviction”, says Pope Francis, now in section 266 of Evangelii Gaudium, “has to be sustained by our own constantly renewed experience of savouring Christ’s friendship and his message.” Our process, as Secular Franciscans, of Conversion. Our Rule (article 7) informs us that: “Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily”

The Poor Christ: “The Kingship of Christ is most evident on Golgotha”
In such a way, creating moments of “encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance” there may be, says the Pope towards the end of “First World Day of the Poor” “an even more authentic celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on the following Sunday. The kingship of Christ is most evident on Golgotha, when the Innocent One, nailed to the cross, poor, naked and stripped of everything, incarnates and reveals the fullness of God’s love.  Jesus’ complete abandonment to the Father expresses his utter poverty and reveals the power of the Love that awakens him to new life on the day of the Resurrection.”

Understanding the Deepest Truth of the Gospel
Pope Francis concludes his “First World Day of the Poor”: “This new World Day, therefore”, should allow us “to grow in the conviction that sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the Gospel. The poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practise in our lives the essence of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis further addressed these themes in his homily at mass for that Sunday, the World Day of the Poor.
He said: “All of us, none excluded, need [the Eucharist], for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Gifts is indeed what the Gospel parable for that Sunday speaks of. “It tells us that we have received talents from God …” “… in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God … who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children.”

“And God … entrusts to each of us a mission.” “… he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But ….. the third [servant] does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says”. “As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.” He was content to keep it safe. “But to do no wrong is not enough.” “It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).”

Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are.

Pope Francis concludes his homily by reflecting on the poor, who: “are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. “Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?”

Read More

The Loving Mercy of God

Brother Francis

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.

Read More

An emotional Mass for migrants with Pope Francis

Pope_Francis_washes_the_feet_of_migrants_and_refugees_during_Holy_Thursday_Mass_March_24_2016_Credit_CTV_Screenshot_CNA

Pope Francis washes the feet of migrants and refugees during Holy Thursday Mass March 24, 2016. Credit: CTV screenshot.

Pope Francis celebrated last night the Missa in coena Domini – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – leading the Church of Rome into the sacred Paschal Triduum. He did so at the C.A.R.A. reception centre for refugees seeking asylum, located at Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome.
Pope Francis performed the ritual washing of the feet of a dozen people – eleven guests of the C.A.R.A. Centre and one woman who works at the Centre for Auxilium. Four of the guests taking part in the ritual were Nigerian Catholics, three others – all three women – were Coptic Christians from Eritrea, three others were Muslims from Syria, Pakistan and Mali, and one was an Indian Hindu.
The CA.R.A. centre is host to nearly 900 asylum-seekers from 25 different countries spread across Africa, Asia, and even Europe. The majority of the guests at the facility are Muslim, and there are many Protestants and Coptic Christians as well. The Auxilium group that operates the Centre says that there has never been any tension as a result of the religious diversity of the guests.
In his brief homily, Pope Francis focused on the Gospel story of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles. He emphasized the common bonds that unite all people. “We are different; we are unique,” the Pontiff said. “We have different cultures and religions. But we are brothers and we want to live in peace.” He referred to two gestures in the gospel: the gesture of Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet, the gesture of brotherhood and goodness; and the gesture of Judas, who goes to those who don’t want peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood. And added that there are also two gestures here today. At the C.A.R.A. reception centre: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers, children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. Yet three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in Brussels. People who don’t want to live in peace, the gesture that destroys brotherhood.

CNA/EWTN News have this report by Elise Harris, copied below in full. It includes the full text of the Pope’s homily:

During a Mass in Rome on Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of migrants and refugees, many of whom were moved to tears by the gesture.
The Pope told them that while there are some people in the world who seek to sow violence, Jesus shows us the path to unity, brotherhood and peace.
“Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are making the same gesture of brotherhood,” he said.
“We are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” he said, adding that “each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood.”
Francis spoke to the 900 migrants and refugees currently housed at the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome. Nearly all of them come from sub-Saharan Africa.
The Pope decided to celebrate his Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the center, after spending previous years offering the Mass in prisons and a rehab center for the disabled.
Nearly 900 migrants and more than 100 volunteers attended the Mass. Most of the migrants hosted at CARA are Muslims, and among the Christians, most are Copts or Protestants.
During the Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of 11 migrants and of one volunteer. Of the migrants, four were Catholic youths from Nigeria, three were Coptic women from Eritrea, three were Muslims, and one was a Hindu youth from India.
While tears could be seen in the eyes of several of the men and women whose feet the Pope washed, one woman was particularly moved. She had been tearful while the Pope washed her feet, but began to sob as Francis reached up to touch her baby.
In his homily, the Pope stressed that “actions speak more than images and words,” and pointed to the day’s Gospel reading from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before being betrayed by Judas, who turned him in for 30 pieces of silver.
Francis pointed to two separate gestures in the passage, the first was being “Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest.”
The second gesture was that of Judas, “who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money…two gestures.”
Pope Francis noted that the two gestures are also present today. One, he said, seeing everyone from different cultures and religions gathered together.
“Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated.”
However, the Pope observed that there is also the gesture of war and destruction, and pointed to the March 22 terror attacks in Belgium.
The attack is an example of “people who don’t want to live in peace,” he said, but noted behind that act, “just as behind Judas, there were others.”
“Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood.”
Francis again contrasted the actions of Jesus who washes feet, and Judas who sells his friend for money. He told the migrants despite their differences, they are all “children of the same Father, brothers.”
He encouraged each of them, “in their own religious language,” to pray to God “so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.”
Please see below for the full text of the Pope’s homily:
Actions speak more than images and words. Actions. In the Word of God we have read, there are two gestures. Jesus, who serves, who washes the feet. He, who was the head, washes the feet of his, the smallest. One gesture. The second gesture: Judas, who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who don’t want peace with Jesus, to take money, that … of 30 coins. Two gestures. Also here today there are two gestures. This, all of us together. Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals, but brothers. Children of the same God who want to live in peace, integrated. One gesture. Three days ago there was a gesture of war, of destruction in a European city. People who don’t want to live in peace. But behind that act, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave him money so that Jesus would be delivered. Behind that act (in Brussels), there are manufacturers, arms traffickers who want blood, not peace, who want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures. Jesus washes the feet, and Judas sells Jesus for money. You, us, everyone together, different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers. And over there (are the) poor ones who buy arms to destroy brotherhood. Today, right now, when I do the same gesture as Jesus in washing the feet of you 12, all of us are doing the same gesture of brotherhood, and we all say, we are different, we are unique. We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace. And this is the gesture that I do with you. Each of you has your own story. Many crosses, many pains, but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Each one, in their own religious language, prays to the Lord, so that this brotherhood infects the world. So that there will not be the 30 coins to kill our brother, because there will always be brotherhood and goodness. So be it.
 

Read More