South East region invite us all to their regional day on 1st July (see below). More news from the regions will follow late in July, but we are now rushing off to France, until Tuesday 27th, for a wedding.
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.
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.
A message for Lent from our National Minister, Paula Pearce:
We only celebrated Candlemas a week ago and it is Ash Wednesday tomorrow. The Christmas season seemed only too short already this year. At least the lengthening days might begin to bring to an end our wet, miserable, and, for some, dreadful winter. We have had early daffodils, snow drops, crocuses and blossom.
I was delighted when I was asked to give an introduction to Franciscan Spiritual Direction to a group of Anglicans training to be directors in the Rochester Diocese last Saturday. It felt like a breath of fresh air and a welcome break from all the business of work for ofsgb. It brought me back to Bonaventure’s Major Life, a key source for the Franciscan Spiritual Direction programme I studied and later taught. Then I read this poem. It reminded of the vestiges, traces, of God that Francis saw everywhere and Bonaventure builds into this carefully crafted – text. I decided to share it as we enter the Lenten season.
I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes
His body gleams amid eternal snows
His tears fall from the skies.
I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice – and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words.
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn.
His cross is every tree.
Joseph Mary Plunkett 1887 – 1916.
I am also looking forward to attending the weekend on Mercy to be given by Brother Francis Dor (Our international Ofm Cap Spiritual Assistant), the week before I too present a weekend on Mercy as part of the Pantasaph programme. As a region, South East is planning a regional pilgrimage to the Jubilee Door in Southwark Cathedral. This Jubilee Year will bring great blessings but my hope is that it changes hearts and has a lifelong impact.
Enjoying Francis, taking seriously our Pope’s call to mercy, together seem to have strengthened my heart, mind and soul and helped me to cope better with the confusion, deep sorrow and real concern that our world situation leaves me feeling much of the time.
I pray that Lent will be a time of renewal, refreshment and prayer for each of us.