Thursday, October 3, 2019

Saint October 4 : St. Francis of Assisi the Patron of Animals, Ecology, Environment, and Peace - Founder of the Franciscans

Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182 — the exact year is uncertain; died there, 3 October, 1226. His father, Pietro Bernardone, was a wealthy Assisian cloth merchant. Of his mother, Pica, little is known, but she is said to have belonged to a noble family of Provence. Francis was one of several children. The legend that he was born in a stable dates from the fifteenth century only, and appears to have originated in the desire of certain writers to make his life resemble that of Christ. At baptism the saint received the name of Giovanni, which his father afterwards altered to Francesco, through fondness it would seem for France, whither business had led him at the time of his son's birth. In any case, since the child was renamed in infancy, the change can hardly have had anything to do with his aptitude for learning French, as some have thought.
Francis received some elementary instruction from the priests of St. George's at Assisi, though he learned more perhaps in the school of the Troubadours, who were just then making for refinement in Italy. However this may be, he was not very studious, and his literary education remained incomplete. Although associated with his father in trade, he showed little liking for a merchant's career, and his parents seemed to have indulged his every whim. Thomas of Celano, his first biographer, speaks in very severe terms of Francis's youth. Certain it is that the saint's early life gave no presage of the golden years that were to come. No one loved pleasure more than Francis; he had a ready wit, sang merrily, delighted in fine clothes and showy display. Handsome, gay, gallant, and courteous, he soon became the prime favourite among the young nobles of Assisi, the foremost in every feat of arms, the leader of the civil revels, the very king of frolic. But even at this time Francis showed an instinctive sympathy with the poor, and though he spent money lavishly, it still flowed in such channels as to attest a princely magnanimity of spirit.
When about twenty, Francis went out with the townsmen to fight the Perugians in one of the petty skirmishes so frequent at that time between the rival cities. The Assisians were defeated on this occasion, and Francis, being among those taken prisoners, was held captive for more than a year in Perugia. A low fever which he there contracted appears to have turned his thoughts to the things of eternity; at least the emptiness of the life he had been leading came to him during that long illness. With returning health, however, Francis's eagerness after glory reawakened and his fancy wandered in search of victories; at length he resolved to embrace a military career, and circumstances seemed to favour his aspirations. A knight of Assisi was about to join "the gentle count", Walter of Brienne, who was then in arms in the Neapolitan States against the emperor, and Francis arranged to accompany him. His biographers tell us that the night before Francis set forth he had a strange dream, in which he saw a vast hall hung with armour all marked with the Cross. "These", said a voice, "are for you and your soldiers." "I know I shall be a great prince", exclaimed Francis exultingly, as he started for Apulia. But a second illness arrested his course at Spoleto. There, we are told, Francis had another dream in which the same voice bade him turn back to Assisi. He did so at once. This was in 1205. Although Francis still joined at times in the noisy revels of his former comrades, his changed demeanour plainly showed that his heart was no longer with them; a yearning for the life of the spirit had already possessed it. His companions twitted Francis on his absent-mindedness and asked if he were minded to be married. "Yes", he replied, "I am about to take a wife of surpassing fairness." She was no other than Lady Poverty whom Dante and Giotto have wedded to his name, and whom even now he had begun to love. After a short period of uncertainty he began to seek in prayer and solitude the answer to his call; he had already given up his gay attire and wasteful ways. One day, while crossing the Umbrian plain on horseback, Francis unexpectedly drew near a poor leper. The sudden appearance of this repulsive object filled him with disgust and he instinctively retreated, but presently controlling his natural aversion he dismounted, embraced the unfortunate man, and gave him all the money he had. About the same time Francis made a pilgrimage to Rome. Pained at the miserly offerings he saw at the tomb of St. Peter, he emptied his purse thereon. Then, as if to put his fastidious nature to the test, he exchanged clothes with a tattered mendicant and stood for the rest of the day fasting among the horde of beggars at the door of the basilica. Not long after his return to Assisi, whilst Francis was praying before an ancient crucifix in the forsaken wayside chapel of St. Damian's below the town, he heard a voice saying: "Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin." Taking this behest literally, as referring to the ruinous church wherein he knelt, Francis went to his father's shop, impulsively bundled together a load of coloured drapery, and mounting his horse hastened to Foligno, then a mart of some importance, and there sold both horse and stuff to procure the money needful for the restoration of St. Damian's. When, however, the poor priest who officiated there refused to receive the gold thus gotten, Francis flung it from him disdainfully. The elder Bernardone, a most niggardly man, was incensed beyond measure at his son's conduct, and Francis, to avert his father's wrath, hid himself in a cave near St. Damian's for a whole month. When he emerged from this place of concealment and returned to the town, emaciated with hunger and squalid with dirt, Francis was followed by a hooting rabble, pelted with mud and stones, and otherwise mocked as a madman. Finally, he was dragged home by his father, beaten, bound, and locked in a dark closet.
Freed by his mother during Bernardone's absence, Francis returned at once to St. Damian's, where he found a shelter with the officiating priest, but he was soon cited before the city consuls by his father. The latter, not content with having recovered the scattered gold from St. Damian's, sought also to force his son to forego his inheritance. This Francis was only too eager to do; he declared, however, that since he had entered the service of God he was no longer under civil jurisdiction. Having therefore been taken before the bishop, Francis stripped himself of the very clothes he wore, and gave them to his father, saying: "Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only 'Our Father who art in Heaven'." Then and there, as Dante sings, were solemnized Francis's nuptials with his beloved spouse, the Lady Poverty, under which name, in the mystical language afterwards so familiar to him, he comprehended the total surrender of all worldly goods, honours, and privileges. And now Francis wandered forth into the hills behind Assisi, improvising hymns of praise as he went. "I am the herald of the great King", he declared in answer to some robbers, who thereupon despoiled him of all he had and threw him scornfully in a snow drift. Naked and half frozen, Francis crawled to a neighbouring monastery and there worked for a time as a scullion. At Gubbio, whither he went next, Francis obtained from a friend the cloak, girdle, and staff of a pilgrim as an alms. Returning to Assisi, he traversed the city begging stones for the restoration of St. Damian's. These he carried to the old chapel, set in place himself, and so at length rebuilt it. In the same way Francis afterwards restored two other deserted chapels, St. Peter's, some distance from the city, and St. Mary of the Angels, in the plain below it, at a spot called the Porziuncola. Meantime he redoubled his zeal in works of charity, more especially in nursing the lepers.
 On a certain morning in 1208, probably 24 February, Francis was hearing Mass in the chapel of St. Mary of the Angels, near which he had then built himself a hut; the Gospel of the day told how the disciples of Christ were to possess neither gold nor silver, nor scrip for their journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff, and that they were to exhort sinners to repentance and announce the Kingdom of God. Francis took these words as if spoken directly to himself, and so soon as Mass was over threw away the poor fragment left him of the world's goods, his shoes, cloak, pilgrim staff, and empty wallet. At last he had found his vocation. Having obtained a coarse woolen tunic of "beast colour", the dress then worn by the poorest Umbrian peasants, and tied it round him with a knotted rope, Francis went forth at once exhorting the people of the country-side to penance, brotherly love, and peace. The Assisians had already ceased to scoff at Francis; they now paused in wonderment; his example even drew others to him. Bernard of Quintavalle, a magnate of the town, was the first to join Francis, and he was soon followed by Peter of Cattaneo, a well-known canon of the cathedral. In true spirit of religious enthusiasm, Francis repaired to the church of St. Nicholas and sought to learn God's will in their regard by thrice opening at random the book of the Gospels on the altar. Each time it opened at passages where Christ told His disciples to leave all things and follow Him. "This shall be our rule of life", exclaimed Francis, and led his companions to the public square, where they forthwith gave away all their belongings to the poor. After this they procured rough habits like that of Francis, and built themselves small huts near his at the Porziuncola. A few days later Giles, afterwards the great ecstatic and sayer of "good words", became the third follower of Francis. The little band divided and went about, two and two, making such an impression by their words and behaviour that before long several other disciples grouped themselves round Francis eager to share his poverty, among them being Sabatinus, vir bonus et justus, Moricus, who had belonged to the Crucigeri, John of Capella, who afterwards fell away, Philip "the Long", and four others of whom we know only the names. When the number of his companions had increased to eleven, Francis found it expedient to draw up a written rule for them. This first rule, as it is called, of the Friars Minor has not come down to us in its original form, but it appears to have been very short and simple, a mere adaptation of the Gospel precepts already selected by Francis for the guidance of his first companions, and which he desired to practice in all their perfection. When this rule was ready the Penitents of Assisi, as Francis and his followers styled themselves, set out for Rome to seek the approval of the Holy See, although as yet no such approbation was obligatory. There are differing accounts of Francis's reception by Innocent III. It seems, however, that Guido, Bishop of Assisi, who was then in Rome, commended Francis to Cardinal John of St. Paul, and that at the instance of the latter, the pope recalled the saint whose first overtures he had, as it appears, somewhat rudely rejected. Moreover, in site of the sinister predictions of others in the Sacred College, who regarded the mode of life proposed by Francis as unsafe and impracticable, Innocent, moved it is said by a dream in which he beheld the Poor Man of Assisi upholding the tottering Lateran, gave a verbal sanction to the rule submitted by Francis and granted the saint and his companions leave to preach repentance everywhere. Before leaving Rome they all received the ecclesiastical tonsure, Francis himself being ordained deacon later on.
After their return to Assisi, the Friars Minor — for thus Francis had named his brethren, either after the minores, or lower classes, as some think, or as others believe, with reference to the Gospel (Matthew 25:40-45), and as a perpetual reminder of their humility — found shelter in a deserted hut at Rivo Torto in the plain below the city, but were forced to abandon this poor abode by a rough peasant who drove in his ass upon them. About 1211 they obtained a permanent foothold near Assisi, through the generosity of the Benedictines of Monte Subasio, who gave them the little chapel of St. Mary of the Angels or the Porziuncola. Adjoining this humble sanctuary, already dear to Francis, the first Franciscan convent was formed by the erection of a few small huts or cells of wattle, straw, and mud, and enclosed by a hedge. From this settlement, which became the cradle of the Franciscan Order (Caput et Mater Ordinis) and the central spot in the life of St. Francis, the Friars Minor went forth two by two exhorting the people of the surrounding country. Like children "careless of the day", they wandered from place to place singing in their joy, and calling themselves the Lord's minstrels. The wide world was their cloister; sleeping in haylofts, grottos, or church porches, they toiled with the labourers in the fields, and when none gave them work they would beg. In a short while Francis and his companions gained an immense influence, and men of different grades of life and ways of thought flocked to the order. Among the new recruits made about this time by Francis were the famous Three Companions, who afterwards wrote his life, namely: Angelus Tancredi, a noble cavalier; Leo, the saint's secretary and confessor; and Rufinus, a cousin of St. Clare; besides Juniper, "the renowned jester of the Lord".
During the Lent of 1212, a new joy, great as it was unexpected, came to Francis. Clare, a young heiress of Assisi, moved by the saint's preaching at the church of St. George, sought him out, and begged to be allowed to embrace the new manner of life he had founded. By his advice, Clare, who was then but eighteen, secretly left her father's house on the night following Palm Sunday, and with two companions went to the Porziuncola, where the friars met her in procession, carrying lighted torches. Then Francis, having cut off her hair, clothed her in the Minorite habit and thus received her to a life of poverty, penance, and seclusion. Clare stayed provisionally with some Benedictine nuns near Assisi, until Francis could provide a suitable retreat for her, and for St. Agnes, her sister, and the other pious maidens who had joined her. He eventually established them at St. Damian's, in a dwelling adjoining the chapel he had rebuilt with his own hands, which was now given to the saint by the Benedictines as domicile for his spiritual daughters, and which thus became the first monastery of the Second Franciscan Order of Poor Ladies, now known as Poor Clares.
In the autumn of the same year (1212) Francis's burning desire for the conversion of the Saracens led him to embark for Syria, but having been shipwrecked on the coast of Slavonia, he had to return to Ancona. The following spring he devoted himself to evangelizing Central Italy. About this time (1213) Francis received from Count Orlando of Chiusi the mountain of La Verna, an isolated peak among the Tuscan Apennines, rising some 4000 feet above the valley of the Casentino, as a retreat, "especially favourable for contemplation", to which he might retire from time to time for prayer and rest. For Francis never altogether separated the contemplative from the active life, as the several hermitages associated with his memory, and the quaint regulations he wrote for those living in them bear witness. At one time, indeed, a strong desire to give himself wholly to a life of contemplation seems to have possessed the saint. During the next year (1214) Francis set out for Morocco, in another attempt to reach the infidels and, if needs be, to shed his blood for the Gospel, but while yet in Spain was overtaken by so severe an illness that he was compelled to turn back to Italy once more.
Authentic details are unfortunately lacking of Francis's journey to Spain and sojourn there. It probably took place in the winter of 1214-1215. After his return to Umbria he received several noble and learned men into his order, including his future biographer Thomas of Celano. The next eighteen months comprise, perhaps, the most obscure period of the saint's life. That he took part in the Lateran Council of 1215 may well be, but it is not certain; we know from Eccleston, however, that Francis was present at the death of Innocent III, which took place at Perugia, in July 1216. Shortly afterwards, i.e. very early in the pontificate of Honorius III, is placed the concession of the famous Porziuncola Indulgence. It is related that once, while Francis was praying at the Porziuncola, Christ appeared to him and offered him whatever favour he might desire. The salvation of souls was ever the burden of Francis's prayers, and wishing moreover, to make his beloved Porziuncola a sanctuary where many might be saved, he begged a plenary Indulgence for all who, having confessed their sins, should visit the little chapel. Our Lord acceded to this request on condition that the pope should ratify the Indulgence. Francis thereupon set out for Perugia, with Brother Masseo, to find Honorius III. The latter, notwithstanding some opposition from the Curia at such an unheard-of favour, granted the Indulgence, restricting it, however, to one day yearly. He subsequently fixed 2 August in perpetuity, as the day for gaining this Porziuncola Indulgence, commonly known in Italy as il perdono d'Assisi.
Such is the traditional account. The fact that there is no record of this Indulgence in either the papal or diocesan archives and no allusion to it in the earliest biographies of Francis or other contemporary documents has led some writers to reject the whole story. This argumentum ex silentio has, however, been met by M. Paul Sabatier, who in his critical edition of the "Tractatus de Indulgentia" of Fra Bartholi has adduced all the really credible evidence in its favour. But even those who regard the granting of this Indulgence as traditionally believed to be an established fact of history, admit that its early history is uncertain. (See PORTIUNCULA.) The first general chapter of the Friars Minor was held in May, 1217, at Porziuncola, the order being divided into provinces, and an apportionment made of the Christian world into so many Franciscan missions. Tuscany, Lombardy, Provence, Spain, and Germany were assigned to five of Francis's principal followers; for himself the saint reserved France, and he actually set out for that kingdom, but on arriving at Florence, was dissuaded from going further by Cardinal Ugolino, who had been made protector of the order in 1216. He therefore sent in his stead Brother Pacificus, who in the world had been renowned as a poet, together with Brother Agnellus, who later on established the Friars Minor in England. Although success came indeed to Francis and his friars, with it came also opposition, and it was with a view to allaying any prejudices the Curia might have imbibed against their methods that Francis, at the instance of Cardinal Ugolino, went to Rome and preached before the pope and cardinals in the Lateran. This visit to the Eternal City, which took place 1217-18, was apparently the occasion of Francis's memorable meeting with St. Dominic. The year 1218 Francis devoted to missionary tours in Italy, which were a continual triumph for him. He usually preached out of doors, in the market-places, from church steps, from the walls of castle court-yards. Allured by the magic spell of his presence, admiring crowds, unused for the rest to anything like popular preaching in the vernacular, followed Francis from place to place hanging on his lips; church bells rang at his approach; processions of clergy and people advanced to meet him with music and singing; they brought the sick to him to bless and heal, and kissed the very ground on which he trod, and even sought to cut away pieces of his tunic. The extraordinary enthusiasm with which the saint was everywhere welcomed was equalled only by the immediate and visible result of his preaching. His exhortations of the people, for sermons they can hardly be called, short, homely, affectionate, and pathetic, touched even the hardest and most frivolous, and Francis became in sooth a very conqueror of souls. Thus it happened, on one occasion, while the saint was preaching at Camara, a small village near Assisi, that the whole congregation were so moved by his "words of spirit and life" that they presented themselves to him in a body and begged to be admitted into his order. It was to accede, so far as might be, to like requests that Francis devised his Third Order, as it is now called, of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, which he intended as a sort of middle state between the world and the cloister for those who could not leave their home or desert their wonted avocations in order to enter either the First Order of Friars Minor or the Second Order of Poor Ladies. That Francis prescribed particular duties for these tertiaries is beyond question. They were not to carry arms, or take oaths, or engage in lawsuits, etc. It is also said that he drew up a formal rule for them, but it is clear that the rule, confirmed by Nicholas IV in 1289, does not, at least in the form in which it has come down to us, represent the original rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. In any event, it is customary to assign 1221 as the year of the foundation of this third order, but the date is not certain.
At the second general chapter (May, 1219) Francis, bent on realizing his project of evangelizing the infidels, assigned a separate mission to each of his foremost disciples, himself selecting the seat of war between the crusaders and the Saracens. With eleven companions, including Brother Illuminato and Peter of Cattaneo, Francis set sail from Ancona on 21 June, for Saint-Jean d'Acre, and he was present at the siege and taking of Damietta. After preaching there to the assembled Christian forces, Francis fearlessly passed over to the infidel camp, where he was taken prisoner and led before the sultan. According to the testimony of Jacques de Vitry, who was with the crusaders at Damietta, the sultan received Francis with courtesy, but beyond obtaining a promise from this ruler of more indulgent treatment for the Christian captives, the saint's preaching seems to have effected little.
Before returning to Europe, the saint is believed to have visited Palestine and there obtained for the friars the foothold they still retain as guardians of the holy places. What is certain is that Francis was compelled to hasten back to Italy because of various troubles that had arisen there during his absence. News had reached him in the East that Matthew of Narni and Gregory of Naples, the two vicars-general whom he had left in charge of the order, had summoned a chapter which, among other innovations, sought to impose new fasts upon the friars, more severe than the rule required. Moreover, Cardinal Ugolino had conferred on the Poor Ladies a written rule which was practically that of the Benedictine nuns, and Brother Philip, whom Francis had charged with their interests, had accepted it. To make matters worse, John of Capella, one of the saint's first companions, had assembled a large number of lepers, both men and women, with a view to forming them into a new religious order, and had set out for Rome to seek approval for the rule he had drawn up for these unfortunates. Finally a rumour had been spread abroad that Francis was dead, so that when the saint returned to Italy with Brother Elias — he appeared to have arrived at Venice in July, 1220 — a general feeling of unrest prevailed among the friars.
Apart from these difficulties, the order was then passing through a period of transition. It had become evident that the simple, familiar, and unceremonious ways which had marked the Franciscan movement at its beginning were gradually disappearing, and that the heroic poverty practiced by Francis and his companions at the outset became less easy as the friars with amazing rapidity increased in number. And this Francis could not help seeing on his return. Cardinal Ugolino had already undertaken the task "of reconciling inspirations so unstudied and so free with an order of things they had outgrown." This remarkable man, who afterwards ascended the papal throne as Gregory IX, was deeply attached to Francis, whom he venerated as a saint and also, some writers tell us, managed as an enthusiast.
That Cardinal Ugolino had no small share in bringing Francis's lofty ideals "within range and compass" seems beyond dispute, and it is not difficult to recognize his hand in the important changes made in the organization of the order in the so-called Chapter of Mats. At this famous assembly, held at Porziuncola at Whitsuntide, 1220 or 1221 (there is seemingly much room for doubt as to the exact date and number of the early chapters), about 5000 friars are said to have been present, besides some 500 applicants for admission to the order. Huts of wattle and mud afforded shelter for this multitude. Francis had purposely made no provision for them, but the charity of the neighbouring towns supplied them with food, while knights and nobles waited upon them gladly. It was on this occasion that Francis, harassed no doubt and disheartened at the tendency betrayed by a large number of the friars to relax the rigours of the rule, according to the promptings of human prudence, and feeling, perhaps unfitted for a place which now called largely for organizing abilities, relinquished his position as general of the order in favour of Peter of Cattaneo. But the latter died in less than a year, being succeeded as vicar-general by the unhappy Brother Elias, who continued in that office until the death of Francis.
The saint, meanwhile, during the few years that remained in him, sought to impress on the friars by the silent teaching of personal example of what sort he would fain have them to be. Already, while passing through Bologna on his return from the East, Francis had refused to enter the convent there because he had heard it called the "House of the Friars" and because a studium had been instituted there. He moreover bade all the friars, even those who were ill, quit it at once, and it was only some time after, when Cardinal Ugolino had publicly declared the house to be his own property, that Francis suffered his brethren to re-enter it. Yet strong and definite as the saint's convictions were, and determinedly as his line was taken, he was never a slave to a theory in regard to the observances of poverty or anything else; about him indeed, there was nothing narrow or fanatical. As for his attitude towards study, Francis desiderated for his friars only such theological knowledge as was conformable to the mission of the order, which was before all else a mission of example. Hence he regarded the accumulation of books as being at variance with the poverty his friars professed, and he resisted the eager desire for mere book-learning, so prevalent in his time, in so far as it struck at the roots of that simplicity which entered so largely into the essence of his life and ideal and threatened to stifle the spirit of prayer, which he accounted preferable to all the rest.
In 1221, so some writers tell us, Francis drew up a new rule for the Friars Minor. Others regard this so-called Rule of 1221 not as a new rule, but as the first one which Innocent had orally approved; not, indeed, its original form, which we do not possess, but with such additions and modifications as it has suffered during the course of twelve years. However this may be, the composition called by some the Rule of 1221 is very unlike any conventional rule ever made. It was too lengthy and unprecise to become a formal rule, and two years later Francis retired to Fonte Colombo, a hermitage near Rieti, and rewrote the rule in more compendious form. This revised draft he entrusted to Brother Elias, who not long after declared he had lost it through negligence. Francis thereupon returned to the solitude of Fonte Colombo, and recast the rule on the same lines as before, its twenty-three chapters being reduced to twelve and some of its precepts being modified in certain details at the instance of Cardinal Ugolino. In this form the rule was solemnly approved by Honorius III, 29 November, 1223 (Litt. "Solet annuere"). This Second Rule, as it is usually called or Regula Bullata of the Friars Minor, is the one ever since professed throughout the First Order of St. Francis (see RULE OF SAINT FRANCIS). It is based on the three vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity, special stress however being laid on poverty, which Francis sought to make the special characteristic of his order, and which became the sign to be contradicted. This vow of absolute poverty in the first and second orders and the reconciliation of the religious with the secular state in the Third Order of Penance are the chief novelties introduced by Francis in monastic regulation.
It was during Christmastide of this year (1223) that the saint conceived the idea of celebrating the Nativity "in a new manner", by reproducing in a church at Greccio the praesepio of Bethlehem, and he has thus come to be regarded as having inaugurated the popular devotion of the Crib. Christmas appears indeed to have been the favourite feast of Francis, and he wished to persuade the emperor to make a special law that men should then provide well for the birds and the beasts, as well as for the poor, so that all might have occasion to rejoice in the Lord. Early in August, 1224, Francis retired with three companions to "that rugged rock 'twixt Tiber and Arno", as Dante called La Verna, there to keep a forty days fast in preparation for Michaelmas. During this retreat the sufferings of Christ became more than ever the burden of his meditations; into few souls, perhaps, had the full meaning of the Passion so deeply entered. It was on or about the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September) while praying on the mountainside, that he beheld the marvellous vision of the seraph, as a sequel of which there appeared on his body the visible marks of the five wounds of the Crucified which, says an early writer, had long since been impressed upon his heart. Brother Leo, who was with St. Francis when he received the stigmata, has left us in his note to the saint's autograph blessing, preserved at Assisi, a clear and simple account of the miracle, which for the rest is better attested than many another historical fact. The saint's right side is described as bearing on open wound which looked as if made by a lance, while through his hands and feet were black nails of flesh, the points of which were bent backward. After the reception of the stigmata, Francis suffered increasing pains throughout his frail body, already broken by continual mortification. For, condescending as the saint always was to the weaknesses of others, he was ever so unsparing towards himself that at the last he felt constrained to ask pardon of "Brother Ass", as he called his body, for having treated it so harshly. Worn out, moreover, as Francis now was by eighteen years of unremitting toil, his strength gave way completely, and at times his eyesight so far failed him that he was almost wholly blind. During an excess of anguish, Francis paid a last visit to St. Clare at St. Damian's, and it was in a little hut of reeds, made for him in the garden there, that the saint composed that "Canticle of the Sun", in which his poetic genius expands itself so gloriously. This was in September, 1225. Not long afterwards Francis, at the urgent instance of Brother Elias, underwent an unsuccessful operation for the eyes, at Rieti. He seems to have passed the winter 1225-26 at Siena, whither he had been taken for further medical treatment. In April, 1226, during an interval of improvement, Francis was moved to Cortona, and it is believed to have been while resting at the hermitage of the Celle there, that the saint dictated his testament, which he describes as a "reminder, a warning, and an exhortation". In this touching document Francis, writing from the fullness of his heart, urges anew with the simple eloquence, the few, but clearly defined, principles that were to guide his followers, implicit obedience to superiors as holding the place of God, literal observance of the rule "without gloss", especially as regards poverty, and the duty of manual labor, being solemnly enjoined on all the friars.
Meanwhile alarming dropsical symptoms had developed, and it was in a dying condition that Francis set out for Assisi. A roundabout route was taken by the little caravan that escorted him, for it was feared to follow the direct road lest the saucy Perugians should attempt to carry Francis off by force so that he might die in their city, which would thus enter into possession of his coveted relics. It was therefore under a strong guard that Francis, in July, 1226, was finally borne in safety to the bishop's palace in his native city amid the enthusiastic rejoicings of the entire populace. In the early autumn Francis, feeling the hand of death upon him, was carried to his beloved Porziuncola, that he might breathe his last sigh where his vocation had been revealed to him and whence his order had struggled into sight. On the way thither he asked to be set down, and with painful effort he invoked a beautiful blessing on Assisi, which, however, his eyes could no longer discern. The saint's last days were passed at the Porziuncola in a tiny hut, near the chapel, that served as an infirmary. The arrival there about this time of the Lady Jacoba of Settesoli, who had come with her two sons and a great retinue to bid Francis farewell, caused some consternation, since women were forbidden to enter the friary. But Francis in his tender gratitude to this Roman noblewoman, made an exception in her favour, and "Brother Jacoba", as Francis had named her on account of her fortitude, remained to the last.
On the eve of his death, the saint, in imitation of his Divine Master, had bread brought to him and broken. This he distributed among those present, blessing Bernard of Quintaville, his first companion, Elias, his vicar, and all the others in order. "I have done my part," he said next, "may Christ teach you to do yours." Then wishing to give a last token of detachment and to show he no longer had anything in common with the world, Francis removed his poor habit and lay down on the bare ground, covered with a borrowed cloth, rejoicing that he was able to keep faith with his Lady Poverty to the end. After a while he asked to have read to him the Passion according to St. John, and then in faltering tones he himself intoned Psalm 141. At the concluding verse, "Bring my soul out of prison", Francis was led away from earth by "Sister Death", in whose praise he had shortly before added a new strophe to his "Canticle of the Sun". It was Saturday evening, 3 October, 1226, Francis being then in the forty-fifth year of his age, and the twentieth from his perfect conversion to Christ. Text from the Catholic Encyclopedia

Amazon Synod presentation by Cardinal Baldisseri - "New Paths for the Church" - will discuss Married Priests - Full Official Text with Full Video

#SinodoAmazonico – Press Conference to present the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Amazonia Region: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology, 03.10.2019

Intervention by His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri
Intervention by His Eminence Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M.
Intervention of Bishop Fabio Fabene

At 11.30 this morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, taking place in the Vatican’s New Synod Hall from 6 to 27 October 2019, on the theme: Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology.
The speakers in the conference were: His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, general secretary of the Synod of Bishops; His Eminence Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M., archbishop emeritus of São Paulo, president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM), general rapporteur; and Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary of the Synod of Bishops.
The following are their respective interventions:

Intervention by His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri
Good morning to you all.
I warmly greet all of you participating in this Press Conference on the eve of the upcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology, to take place from 6 to 27 of this month.
I see many of you again after just over three months. Indeed, on 17 June in this Hall the presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris of this Synod was held. As you are aware, it is substantially the collation and organization by subject of the material produced during the Consultation Phase, in listening to all the members of the People of God interested in the theme. It is offered to the Synod Fathers as a point of reference for discussion during the work of the Synod Assembly.
The Special Assembly is a type of Synod convened to discuss “matters … which pertain principally to one or more particular geographical areas” (Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis Communio Art. 1, 3°). But even if attention is focused on a specific territory, each Synod always and in any case relates to the universal Church. Therefore, the meeting phase is taking place in Rome, See of the Successor of Peter, and not in a place in the Pan-Amazon region.
All the ordinary and auxiliary bishops of the Amazonian ecclesiastical circumscriptions or those with an Amazonian territory, and the presidents of the Episcopal Conferences concerned, will participate in this Assembly. Therefore, unlike the ordinary and extraordinary General Assemblies, this is not a partial representation of the bishops. All the prelates of the Region are convened, thus highlighting collegiality, a peculiar characteristic of the synodal institution.
There are also Prelates from other particular Churches and regional or continental ecclesial bodies, as well as heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia who have some competence in this area. Their participation also highlights the link between the Special Assembly and the universal Church. It is the whole Church that shows her concern for the Amazon: for the difficulties, problems, concerns and challenges that are encountered there, but also by being ready to accept the contribution to a better existence that can come from it.
There are 184 Synod Fathers, of whom 136 participate are participating ex officio; among these, 113 are from the various ecclesiastical circumscriptions of the Pan-Amazon region. There are 13 heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia. The total number also includes the members of the Pre-Synodal Council, 15 religious elected by the Union of Superiors General and 33 members appointed by the Pope.
Among the Synod Fathers there are 28 cardinals, 29 archbishops, 62 residential bishops, 7 auxiliaries, 27 vicars apostolic, 10 prelate bishops, and 21 non-bishop members, diocesan and religious.
The Pan-Amazon region, as is well known, occupies a territory of nine countries (French Guyana, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, and Peru). For this reason, the ex officio Synod Fathers belong to 7 Episcopal Conferences: Antilles, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia and Peru. Thus, among the 113 Synod Fathers of the Pan-Amazon ecclesiastical circumscriptions, 3 come from the Antilles, 6 from Venezuela, 13 from Colombia, 7 from Ecuador, 57 from Brazil, 11 from Bolivia and 10 from Peru.
The universal dimension of the Church is also expressed by the 33 members appointed by the Pope, who come especially from countries and geographical areas, such as the river basin of Congo, which present the same ecological problems that constitute one of the two major areas mentioned in the title of the Synod.
The Synod is attended by 6 fraternal delegates, representing other Churches and ecclesial communities present in the Amazon territory, whose presence nurtures in us the desire to achieve the full visible unity of the Church of Christ and strengthens the will to work together, certain that the Holy Spirit is at work, and suggests new paths for the proclamation and witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Of particular importance is also the presence of 12 fraternal delegates, the highest number so far among the participants in a Special Assembly. They have been chosen for their high level of scientific competence or as members of bodies that in various ways carry out activities of a humanitarian nature or aimed at protecting the environment.
The number of participants is supplemented by 25 experts, appointed for their specific skills in various fields. They will collaborate with the general rapporteur and the special secretaries on the issues that will be considered.
There are 55 auditors, including specialists and pastoral workers, the majority of whom come from the Pan-Amazon region, even from the remotest places. In this group there are 10 religious presented by the International Union of Superiors General (U.I.S.G.). The total number of religious is higher than that of the other Synods, testifying to their pastoral and missionary importance.
Among the various participants in the Synod, there are also 17 representatives of different original peoples and indigenous ethnic groups, including 9 women. They bear the voice and the living witness of the traditions, culture and faith of their people and help to provide awareness of the situation in the Pan-Amazon region that is as responsive as possible to the local reality.
The total number of women participating in the Synod is 35: 2 are special guests, 4 are experts (of whom 2 are nuns) and 29 auditors (of whom 18 are nuns).
As shown by the title, the focus of this Special Assembly for the Pan-Amazon region is dual, and was precisely indicated by the Holy Father at the moment of its convocation. Its purpose is to “identify new paths for the evangelization of this segment of the People of God, especially the indigenous peoples, often forgotten and without the prospect of a peaceful future, also due to the crisis of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of paramount importance for our planet” (Francis, Angelus, 15 October 2017).
Attention is therefore focused on the evangelizing mission of the Church in the Amazon, with the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ at its centre, and on the ecological theme, given the importance that the Amazon territory has for the whole planet. As far as this second aspect is concerned, the approach starts from the vision of an ecology that does not limit itself to dealing with issues looking exclusively at the natural environment, but which “clearly respects its human and social dimensions” (LS 137). An ecology, therefore, that knows how to keep in mind the essence of the human, as stated in LS 11. “Everything is connected”, Pope Francis often emphasizes. It is necessary to be aware that human action is not exercised in “hermetically sealed compartments”, but that any behaviour, positive or negative, that is adopted with regard to the natural environment has inevitable consequences also in the socio-cultural and spiritual sphere of peoples and individuals. For this reason, the defence of the earth, the defence of cultures and the defence of life are inextricably intertwined, as Pope Francis said during his meeting in Puerto Maldonado with the peoples of the Amazon on 19 January 2018, a meeting that we can say paved the way for the entire synodal path. The same ways of proclaiming the Gospel cannot ignore the relationship with nature, cultures and societies in which it takes place.
Bearing in mind that one of the Synod's thematic axes revolves around ecological issues, the General Secretariat has promoted a number of initiatives with the aim of limiting pollution and promoting environmental sustainability, so as to contribute, as far as possible, to safeguarding the common home. I will briefly mention these.
The first, in chronological order, concerns the registration of participants. A procedure has been adopted whereby registrations is carried out directly online. This new procedure has speeded up communication, but above all it has allowed considerable savings in printed paper, eliminating, moreover, the costs associated with the use of traditional mail.
Particular attention is also paid to limiting the use of plastic as much as possible. For this reason, for example,
- the glasses to be used will be made of biodegradable material;
- the bag with the work material to be delivered to the Participants is made of natural fibre
- the paper used for the documents to be distributed has the highest number of certifications regarding origin and processing chain.
It is hoped that the Synod may respond to what has been stated in its title, to identify new paths to promote, in Amazonia, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all men, and to indicate feasible ways to safeguard and care for the natural, human and social environment.
I thank you all for your attention, not only to this intervention of mine, but more generally to an event that affects the life of the Church and the Amazon people in this month of October.

Intervention by His Eminence Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, O.F.M.
The Special Synod of Bishops for Amazonia, which will begin on 6 October here in the Vatican, convened by Pope Francis, has as its theme “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology”. The broad context of the Synod is the serious and urgent socio-environmental crisis to which Laudato si’ refers: a) the climate crisis, that is, global warming due to the greenhouse effect; b) the ecological crisis as a consequence of the degradation, contamination, depredation and devastation of the planet, especially in Amazonia; c) and the growing social crisis of blatant poverty and misery that affects most human beings and, in Amazonia, especially the indigenous, the riverine, small farmers and those who live on the outskirts of Amazonian cities and others. But Laudato si' warns: “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (49). “We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature”. (139). Everything is interconnected.
Already in the announcement of the Synod in October 2017, Pope Francis indicated fundamental points of this Synod, that is, in Amazonia, “identify new paths for the evangelization of this segment of the People of God, especially the indigenous peoples, often forgotten and without the prospect of a peaceful future, also due to the crisis of the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of paramount importance for our planet”. Therefore, great themes: new paths, evangelization, indigenous people and the forest. All this is summarized in the current theme of the Synod: “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for integral ecology".
It deals with the mission of the Church in Amazonia: to evangelize, that is, to proclaim Jesus Christ and His Kingdom and consequently to care for the “common home”. Basically, it is a matter of caring for and defending life, both for all human beings, especially the indigenous people who live there, and for biodiversity. Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10: 10).
In this context, what Pope Francis calls “integral ecology” is important, to say that everything is interconnected: human beings, community and social life, and nature. What is done to the earth as evil ends up doing harm to human beings and vice versa. There is a need for an ecological conversion, inspired by Saint Francis of Assisi. As the Pope says in Laudato si',
“a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion” (218). “First, it entails gratitude and gratuitousness, a recognition that the world is God’s loving gift. ... It also entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion” (220); it “[enriches] the meaning of this conversion… [including] the awareness that each creature reflects something of God and has a message to convey to us, and the security that Christ has taken unto Himself this material world and now, risen, is intimately present to each being, surrounding it with His affection and penetrating it with His light. Then too, there is the recognition that God created the world” (221).

Intervention by Bishop Fabio Fabene
The Apostolic Constitution Episcopalis communio provides for the preparatory phase as the first stage of the synodal journey. On the occasion of the presentation of the Instrumentum laboris, which concludes this phase, the initiatives that led to the drafting of the document were presented. This was followed by a period of in-depth study of the Instrumentum laboris through a series of activities carried out in various places, including through the competent episcopal bodies. I would like to remind you of some of them: the Pre-Synodal Assemblies on the Instrumentum laboris in the various Episcopal Conferences, the REPAM Theological Symposium, held in Rome at the end of June, the meeting of the itinerant teams in Manaus, Brazil, and numerous virtual seminars and local meetings. Particularly significant was the meeting on the Amazonian Synod that CELAM held in Colombia on 6 and 7 September last. Some of you may have participated in some of the visits to the Amazon territories organized for journalists.
The synodal journey was accompanied by the prayers of all those involved. In particular, the initiative “40 days across the river. Sailing together. The good news of God towards the Amazonian Synod”. A journey of listening to the Word of God and of prayer, spread also via social networks.
We are now on the eve of the beginning of the celebratory phase, which is the true and proper Synod. Bearing in mind that we are facing a Special Assembly, the work will follow a methodology that, compared to the previous Synods, has been partially renewed in order to deal more systematically with the specific nature of the topics to be dealt with. The work will be introduced by a report by the General Secretary, to illustrate the synodal path. This will be followed by the report by the General Rapporteur, who will present the contents that emerged during the preparatory phase and outline the main topics for discussion in the Hall and in the Circoli minori. The triple division of the parts in see-judge-act will not be followed, but this method will be found in the various themes under discussion. The speeches in the Hall of the Synod Fathers, of the Auditors, of the Fraternal Delegates and of the Special Guests will last four minutes. At the end of the days on which the General Congregations are held there will be time for the free interventions by the Synod Fathers.
The Circoli minori will present their contributions which, together with the interventions in the Hall, will allow the General Rapporteur, assisted by the Special Secretaries, to prepare the first plan for the Final Document of the Synod. After this has been submitted to the Hall, they will propose amendments for the final draft, which will be voted on by the Assembly.
Communication during the Synod is entrusted to the Dicastery of Communication. Every day there will be briefings coordinated by the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication and the Director of the Holy See Press Office. As in the past, some of the Synod Fathers and other participants in the Special Assembly will intervene daily. The social networks (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) of Vatican News and the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will contribute to the dissemination of news on the synodal work. The hashtag #SinodoAmazonico will also be active in several languages in order to provide adequate information on the Synod.
The Synod Fathers will be able to give personal interviews outside the Synod Hall.
As in the last Synods, the interventions in the Hall will not be officially published in the Holy See Press Office Bulletin. Instead, the reports of the Circoli will be made public via the Holy See Press Office.

FULL TEXT + Image Source: - Official Translation

Pope Francis tells Sisters "...respond to the thirst of this world, which ultimately thirsts for Christ and thirsts for His Mercy." Full Text

Clementine Hall
Thursday, 3 October 2019

Dear sisters!
I extend a cordial greeting to each of you, and I thank the Prior General. The General Chapter is an event of grace, an ecclesial event: even when it is celebrated in the strictest confidence, it belongs to the life of the Church. All this is particularly evident with reference to your General Chapter, which has as its theme: “A global community moving into new life”. Challenging!
The juxtaposition of these two words: community and global, leads us immediately to ask questions, as it seems contradictory. Generally, the term community is used to indicate a group of people who share a rather restricted environment: such as the religious community, the parish community, in short, a circumscribed form of God’s people; the adjective global, instead, is used to attribute to an entity to which one refers a universal reach, which arrives at the ends of the earth. It seems that these two terms are not meant to be together, yet, this is the reality in which we live and with which we have to deal.
We find ourselves in a time increasingly interconnected and inhabited by peoples who have come to be part of a “global community”. We all find ourselves closer to the great challenges we face. Today, no one can say any more: “This does not concern me”. The protection of human rights, the conquest of freedom of thought and religion, the evangelization of the distant and the near - beginning with oneself -, social justice, the protection of the environment and the common search for sustainable development, the advent of a humanistic economy, of a policy that is truly at the service of man are not “other people’s problems”, but rather they are our problems, they are my problems; they no longer concern only a people or a nation, but the whole world. For example, the burning Amazon is not just a problem in that region, it is a global problem; the migration phenomenon does not affect only some states, but the international community; and so on.
Here then is the hopeful invitation expressed in the second part of your theme: “Moving into new life”. These words take up what Saint Angela Merici often said: “Make new life”. But how is it possible to go towards a new life?
It is possible by opening the doors to Christ and imitating Him in charity, that is, in becoming a neighbour to every man and woman of every language, people and nation, with great respect for the diversity of the other, both cultural and religious.
In the same way you too, dear sisters, with respect for your personal identities and the charismatic originality that characterizes you, are called to “make new life”, to bring a breath of new life to the ends of the earth, knowing how to stay responsibly in the midst of different peoples, nations and cultures, so that the message of faith, hope and charity that you bring may attract people to Christ.
What we live in is an international and intercultural context, so I invite you to seek, in a climate of prayer, the appropriate instruments so that in pursuing your individual and community objectives you do not lose sight of the vast horizon of humanity for which Jesus gave His life. In this regard, it is my hope that the entire Roman Union of the Order of Saint Ursula will take courageous missionary decisions, capable of transforming everything, so that customs, styles, schedules, languages and structures of government and apostolate may become adequate channels for the evangelization of today’s world. To do this, a pastoral conversion of the structures is necessary, so that they are increasingly oriented towards the mission, are “outgoing” - because if they are not outgoing, they are not Church - to encourage the response of all those to whom Jesus offers His friendship.
More than ever, we need consistent witness. Consistent witness, please, do not forget! The Church needs men and women who, beginning with their own personal conversion, are able to offer to listening and understanding to others, together with the joy of the Gospel.
You, dear sisters, are called to bear this witness as faithful daughters of Saint Angela Merici, finding renewed inspiration in her charism, to respond to the thirst of this world, which ultimately thirsts for Christ and thirsts for His Mercy.
In this context I would like to encourage you to continue with enthusiasm your educational task, especially at a time when young people are overburdened with an enormous amount of information and disoriented by the speed with which it is transmitted. Consequently, there is a need for an educational approach that teaches us to think critically, to discern the pros and cons of the means we use, and that can show young people a path of maturation in values.
You know well that a serious human growth in the awareness of values is only possible by combining education with the proclamation of the Gospel. This is done primarily through personal witness, so I invite you to take good care of your spiritual life.
Love for people is a force that promotes the encounter with God and the spiritual life itself, because those who love their neighbour love God, while those who do not love their brother “walk in darkness”, “remain in death” and “have not known God” (1 Jn 2: 11; 3: 14; 4: 8). When we live the spirit of encounter, when we approach others with the intention of seeking their good, we open up our inner self to receive the most beautiful gifts of the Lord. Every time we meet with a brother and sister in love, our faith is more enlightened to recognize God. For this reason, if you wish to grow in spiritual life, you cannot give up being missionaries.
Dear Sisters, I ask God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Ursula and Saint Angela Merici, to enlighten you in your discernment and in your decisions, and to give you the strength to put them into practice, always mindful that the ultimate goal of life is to give glory to God. May the grace of the Lord always accompany you and sustain you on your journey. From the heart I bless you and all your communities. All of you! And you, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you!

FULL TEXT + Image Source: - Official Translation

#BreakingNews Catholic Priest Murdered in Colombia - RIP Fr. Jhony Ramos at age 53

AMERICA/COLOMBIA - A parish priest in Cauca killed, a battleground between old and new armed gangs
Thursday, 3 October 2019

Villavicencio (Agenzia Fides) - "We raise prayers to the Lord so that Father Jhony will be welcomed into the Father's house; we pray for the conversion of his murderers and we reject all forms of violence that threaten the life and dignity of people", with these words the Archdiocese of Villavicencio, through the words of Mgr. Oscar Urbina Ortega, informs of the violent death of presbyter Jhony Ramos, parish priest of the parish of Jesus de la Misericordia in the Comuneros district in the town of Villavicencio, which took place on 2 October.
The 53-year-old priest was found dead, his feet and hands tied, in the parish house. A first comment by the police investigating what happened is that he was the victim of a theft, given that he had recently organized a parish lottery. "The first signs show that the priest was suffocated and hit in the head with a blunt instrument, we hope to learn more after the autopsy results", commented a law enforcement official in charge of the investigation to the press.
Father Jhony is the second Colombian priest killed this year (see Fides, 20/2/2019). He was loved by all the faithful, even though he had been at the head of the parish for only 4 months.
Cauca was disputed between the army, paramilitaries and guerrillas of the Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc). Instead of the guerrilla, demobilized, today old and new armed gangs are trying to "regain it". At stake is the control of the coca fields, or better, of the land that the armed groups would like to turn into drug plantations, given the favorable climate.
The Church has always been a protagonist in soliciting the presence of the State and development in the area. After the violent clashes on April 3 in Cauca, where one demonstrator died and six others were seriously injured, the mayor of Pasto, Pedro Vicente Obando, had asked to meet Mgr. Oscar Urbina, President of the Bishops' Conference, with the goal to formally request the mediation of the Catholic Church to try to promote dialogue between the indigenous communities of Cauca and President Duque (see Fides, 09/4/2019). On 15 March the Catholic Church, through the Bishop of Popayán and the Apostolic Vicars of Guapi and Tierradentro, the ecclesiastical jurisdictions that comprise the territory of the Cauca, had insisted on the request to "move forward in the construction of a reconciled and peaceful people". (CE) (Agenzia Fides, 3/10/2019)
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Pope Francis explains "Sunday is the day of the encounter of the people with the Lord, the day of the encounter of my family with the Lord." in Homily

Pope at Santa Marta: Receiving the Word of God fills us with joy
The encounter with the Word of God fills us with joy, and this is our strength. At the Mass at Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis emphasized that we cannot understand the feast of Sunday without the Word of God.
Vatican News

In his homily at daily Mass, Pope Francis said that opening our hearts to the encounter with the Word of God fills us with joy. The Holy Father invited the faithful to listen attentively to the readings, without letting them “go in one ear and out the other.”

The Pope began by reflecting on the day’s first Reading, taken from the book of the prophet Nehemiah. It is “the story of the encounter of the people of God with the Word of God. It’s all a story of rebuilding,” he said.

The reading is centred on the reconstruction of the Temple and the return of the Jewish people from exile. The leaders of the people – the governor, Nehemiah; and Ezra, the scribe – “enthroned” the Word of God. They had gathered the people in the square in front of the Water Gate, and Ezra read from the scroll of the Law; afterwards, the priests explained the reading to the people. Pope Francis asked his listeners to consider how “for decades this had not happened. It is the encounter of the people with their God, the encounter of the people with the Word of God.”

The people hungered for the Word of God
The Holy Father contrasted their response to the Word of God with our own: “We are used to having this book which is the Word of God,” he said, but we have gotten ‘used to it’ “in a bad way.” The people in Ezra’s time, on the other hand, had been deprived of the Word, “they hungered for the Word of God, and so when they saw the book of the Word they stood up.” Pope Francis continued:

Nehemiah, who was the governor; Ezra, the priest and scribe; and the priests who taught the people, said to all the people, “This day is consecrated to the Lord.” For us, it is Sunday. Sunday is the day of the encounter of the people with the Lord, the day of the encounter of my family with the Lord.  The day of my encounter with the Lord is a day of encounter. “This day is consecrated to the Lord.”

The feast of Sunday cannot be understood without the Word of God
For this reason, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the priests encouraged the people not to mourn and not to weep. The day’s first Reading says that the people wept when they heard the Word; but, the Pope said, they wept “from emotion, they wept from joy”:

When we hear the Word of God, what happens in my heart? Do I pay attention to the Word of God? Do I let it touch my heart, or do I stand there staring at the ceiling thinking of other things, and the Word goes in one ear and out the other, [and] does not reach the heart? What do I do to prepare myself so that the Word will reach the heart? And when the Word reaches the heart, there are tears of joy and there is the feast. The feast of Sunday cannot be understood without the Word of God, it is not understood. “Then Nehemiah said to them, ‘Go, make a feast’ – and he gave a good recipe for a feast: Eat rich foods and drink sweet wines and send portions to those who have nothing’ – [that is,] to the poor. The poor are always the altar servers of the Christian feast, the poor! – because this day is consecrated to our Lord; do not be sad, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Opening our hearts to joy: sadness is not our strength
On the contrary, the Pope continued, sadness is not our strength. “The Word of the Lord makes us joyful,” he said:

The encounter with the Word of God fills us with joy, and this joy is my strength, it is our strength. Christians are joyful because they have accepted, they have received the Word of God in their hearts, and they continually encounter the Word, they seek it out. This is the message for today, for all of us. A brief examination of conscience: ‘How do I listen to the Word of God? Or do I simply not listen? How do I encounter the Lord in His Word, which is the Bible?’ And then, ‘Am I convinced that the joy of the Lord is my strength?’ Sadness is not our strength.

The devil immediately casts down “saddened hearts,” the Pope said; while the joy of the Lord “makes us rise up, look and sing, and weep with joy.” One of the Psalms, he noted, says that at the moment of liberation from the Babylonian captivity, the Jewish people thought they were dreaming – they could not believe it. Our experience is similar, Pope Francis continued, “when we meet the Lord in His Word,” when we think, “But this is a dream… and cannot believe such beauty.”

Concluding his homily, the Holy Father prayed, “May the Lord give us the grace to open our hearts for this encounter with His Word, and to not be afraid of joy, to not be afraid to make the feast of joy” – that joy, he said, “that flows precisely from this encounter with the Word of God.”

Today's Mass Readings and Video : Thursday. October 3, 2019 - #Eucharist

Thursday of the Twenty-sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 458

Reading 1NEH 8:1-4A, 5-6, 7B-12

The whole people gathered as one in the open space before the Water Gate,
and they called upon Ezra the scribe
to bring forth the book of the law of Moses
which the LORD prescribed for Israel.
On the first day of the seventh month, therefore,
Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly,
which consisted of men, women,
and those children old enough to understand.
Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate,
he read out of the book from daybreak until midday,
in the presence of the men, the women,
and those children old enough to understand;
and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law.
Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform
that had been made for the occasion.
He opened the scroll
so that all the people might see it
(for he was standing higher up than any of the people);
and, as he opened it, all the people rose.
Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God,
and all the people, their hands raised high, answered,
"Amen, amen!"
Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD,
their faces to the ground.
As the people remained in their places,
Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God,
interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.
Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe
and the Levites who were instructing the people
said to all the people:
"Today is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not be sad, and do not weep"–
for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.
He said further:  "Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks,
and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared;
for today is holy to our LORD.
Do not be saddened this day,
for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"
And the Levites quieted all the people, saying,
"Hush, for today is holy, and you must not be saddened."
Then all the people went to eat and drink,
to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy,
for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.

Responsorial PsalmPS 19:8, 9, 10, 11

R. (9ab) The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye;
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
They are more precious than gold,
than a heap of purest gold;
Sweeter also than syrup
or honey from the comb.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

AlleluiaMK 1:15

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Kingdom of God is at hand;
repent and believe in the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 10:1-12

Jesus appointed seventy-two other disciples
whom he sent ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place he intended to visit.
He said to them,
"The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;
so ask the master of the harvest
to send out laborers for his harvest.
Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way.
Into whatever house you enter, first say,
'Peace to this household.'
If a peaceful person lives there,
your peace will rest on him;
but if not, it will return to you.
Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you,
for the laborer deserves his payment.
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
'The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.'
Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you,
go out into the streets and say,
'The dust of your town that clings to our feet,
even that we shake off against you.'
Yet know this: the Kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you,
it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town."

Saint October 3 : St. Gerard of Brogne, in Belgium, who restored the Order of St. Benedict

St. Gerard of Brogne

895 at Staves, Namur, Belgium
3 October 959 at Brogne, Belgium
Major Shrine:
Saint-Gérard, Namur
Patron of:
Saint-Gérard, Namur

Born at Staves in the county of Namur, towards the end of the ninth century; died at Brogne or St-Gérard, 3 Oct. 959. The son of Stance, of the family of dukes of Lower Austrasia, and of Plectrude, sister of Stephen, Bishop of Liège, the young Gérard, like most omen of his rank, followed at first the career of arms. His piety, however, was admirable amid the distractions of camp. He transformed into a large church a modest chapel situated on the estate of Brogne which belonged to his family. About 917, the Count of Namur charged him with a mission to Robert, younger brother of Eudes, King of France. He permitted his followers to reside at Paris, but himself went to live at the Abbey of St-Denis, where he was so struck by the deifying lives of the monks that, at the conclusion of his embassy, with the consent of the Count of Namur and Bishop Stephen, his maternal uncle, he returned to St-Denis, took the religious habit, and after eleven years was ordained priest. He then requested to be allowed to return to Brogne, where he replaced the lax clerics with monks animated by a true religious spirit. Thereupon he himself retired to a cell near the monastery for more austere mortification. From this retreat he was summoned by the Archbishop of Cambrai who confided to him the direction of the community of St-Ghislain in Hainault. Here also he established monks instead of the canons, whose conduct had ceased to be exemplary, and he enforced the strictest monastic discipline. Gradually he became superior of eighteen other abbeys situated in the region between the Meuse, the Somme, and the sea, and through his efforts the Order of St. Benedict was soon completely restored throughout this region. Weighed down by age and infirmities, he placed vicars or abbots in his stead, in the various abbeys with which he was charged, and retired to that of Brogne. He still had courage to take a journey to Rome in order to obtain a Bull confirming the privileges of that abbey. On his return he paid a final visit to all the communities which he had reorganized, and then awaited death at Brogne. His body is still preserved at Brogne, now commonly calledSt-Gérard.

SOURCE The Catholic Encyclopedia