National Minister

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A message for Lent from our National Minister, Paula Pearce (09/02/2016):

Lent 2016

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
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.
Paula ofs

A few thoughts from the National Minister on the occasion of the launch of the new website (13/09/2015).
The new website of the Secular Franciscan Order of Great Britain, OFSGB, is officially launched today. It is the fruit of much labour and toil and my deepest thanks go to so many members of our Order and the other behind the scenes helpers.
The initiative came from the National Council. Many individuals had taken on the task over the past years and their efforts are not forgotten. Our existing website needed a lot of change if it was going to reflect what the National Council was looking for. The underlying quest was for a user-friendly, public website that could display the different hues that make up OFSGB. We have a small dedicated team who have worked hard to set up this site but its success will depend on people updating, editing, reflecting and using the website.
By chance, not design, the launch is at the beginning of the week in which Franciscans celebrate the Feast of the Stigmata of St Francis, on 17th September. This mysterious event is recorded in the early Franciscan sources. In one of these, the first Life of St Francis that was written by Thomas of Celano shortly after the death of the saint, we read that after this episode, Francis, terribly ill throughout his body:
“Burned with a great desire to return to his earliest steps towards humility; rejoicing in hope because of his boundless love, he planned to call his body back to its original servitude, although it had now reached its limit….He used to say: ‘Let us begin, brothers, to serve the Lord God, for up until now we have done little or nothing.’” (Thomas of Celano, The Life of St Francis, 103). Celano goes on to say that he desired to serve lepers again and, at the same time, he sought to find time to spend alone with God.
We launch the new website as a new beginning, another way of serving the Lord God and we do this in a spirit of prayer and community.
The unique nature of our international secular Order and the all-embracing character of our founder, Francis of Assisi, mean that our Order accommodates diverse members, worldwide. At the heart I offer two challenging principles from our way of life:
1. Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to Life and Life to the Gospel.
2. Let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.
The way of life guides and challenges members but it also unites members, wherever they are called to be in their everyday life. Members are immersed in every aspect of life, are scattered throughout the world and are seeking to bring their Franciscan spirit into every situation they face and witness. Prayer, awareness of the presence of God and trust in His love and grace give life and strength.
The website already witnesses to the variety of ways members take on and live out their mission. It is hoped that it will become a life-giving resource, faithful to the Franciscan spirit. We want visitors to the site to learn about contemporary Franciscan life and, for those who wish, to learn more about the Franciscan heritage we are built upon and want to carry forward.
The website is very much at its beginning and there is much material waiting for various members to have the time to add and edit. We hope there is much more out there to look forward to.
Paula ofs