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.


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

merciful like the father

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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National Minister Blog on National Seat


The National Council in session at Barton (March 2016)
It has been a really busy and significant time. Both National Executive and National Council have now met. We planned to make these meetings residential so we could get through a lot of work and build fraternity. I struggle with single day meetings when there is a lot to do. There has been much to work through. I suppose you will never have enough time but it was so much better and we have grown as fraternity.

Cold Ash was wonderful. We were spoiled, welcomed and could relax when we were not around the conference table. The national council meeting was a very different experience to anything we have ever done before. It was our first meeting at the Barton premises. We did not have Franciscan accommodation and had to look for places to stay that were relatively cheap. This meant that we were some 3 miles from Barton, not on a direct public transport route. 3 people had cars but there was an overflow so we had to use taxis for some journeys. Breakfast and evening meals were quite cheap. The Friday evening meal was in a pub, next to one of our motels, and we planned to eat at 7.30pm in order to have a full working day on Saturday. This worked but it was all out of our comfort zone.

We learned a lot during our stay. The seat/office has not yet been fully cleared and remains too dusty so we have asked for both these issues to be addressed. It is basic. As Franciscans that should not bother us, providing it is serviceable and does not jeopardise health. One of our regional ministers was thrilled because this is the centre for the Crusade of Mary Immaculate. This is one group we are benefiting by our rent payments. We are also helping the OFM Conventuals to keep the building going. St Maximilian Kolbe would be the obvious Patron Saint if this site is to work. We will be praying to him as we continue our work there.

We had a packed lunch on Saturday. Pam had secured 2 urns, so we just made hot drinks when we were ready. This meant we had a very good and long working day. It was up to council members to decide if we can make this place work for at least the year to which we are already committed. I was relieved when the council agreed. We also met from 9.00 – 1.00 on Mother’s Day – of course we had not realised we would be away on Mothering Sunday when we fixed the date.

Since the council members have agreed, I have now to let you know that we have to pay £10 a day for the building. For this we have a lot of room – office space, storage and meeting facilities – plenty, providing our concerns can be addressed and, as I have indicated, these are considerable. We have no other outgoings for the accommodation – heating is provided, all insurance and maintenance is covered, we have wifi. It is the condition and dinginess of what was, after all, a purpose built printing unit, that we hope to be able to address when we have clear space. Councillors have already offered to come and help, whether practical cleaning and decorating, or on our paperwork – administration and archives. It is spacious so can house our archives. However, we cannot fund it without help from our members.

We decided the way forward is to turn this into a project. The increase in capitation was necessary to enable us to carry out our work – it cannot stretch to this. One region has already offered to pay a months rent. Other regions may offer to do the same. Some individuals and local fraternities will make it into their charity, or make this an additional charity, and agree to make regular or one-off donations. Some members might pay for paper or cartridges, or other stationery that we will need. Some might help with the cleaning costs. In time we may be able to fund raise at the premises.

So this is a major leap of faith. It was essential that national council came and saw, so we could discern. You will understand why it is only now that I can put you all fully in the picture.

I will fill you in on what we have been doing at another time. Here is a document on why we have to have a national seat.

Most importantly this whole project needs prayer.

I hope we all have a reflective Passiontide until Easter and then I wish everyone a happy and joyful Easter season.

Paula ofs.

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