Br. José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm
Minister General OFM
Heb 10, 32- 39; Ps 36; Mk 4, 26-34
May the Lord give you peace!
With this Eucharist, we conclude this meeting of the newly elected Ministers and Custodes with the Minister General and his Definitory. This celebration should be the culminating moment of our thanksgiving to the Father of Mercies for having called us to be children of God in the Son; for having called us to form part of this family of the Order of Friars Minors; for having entrusted to us the service of authority, which is a further sign of his trust in us despite the many limitations we experience in our daily administration and as leaders of the brothers entrusted to us.
During these two weeks and since at the start of Cycle A in “Ordinary Time” the Church proposes as the first reading a text taken from the so called “Letter to the Hebrews”. Based on this text, we can tell that the audience of this sermon (the letter to the Hebrews may at first had been a sermon, but later took on the form of letter) was going through a difficult moment. The courage with which they overcame trials in order to be baptized was yielding to symptoms of fatigue, frustration, perhaps, mediocrity, and even defections. It is easy to deduce that by a careful reading of the text when the author of the sermon said to the Christians, Remember those earlier days after you had received the light how you endured a great conflict full of suffering (Heb 10:32ss)
This situation repeats itself not only in those of us who have embraced the faith in Christian communities, but also in the brothers in fraternities who have embraced a given way of life. The unconditional self-giving, passion, and enthusiasm of the discipleship of Christ of the early days were easily followed by moments of fatigue, monotony, giving-up, frustration, sometimes defections, and, even worse still, a mediocre way of life, the true cancer of Christian, Consecrated, and Franciscan life. This is the true, not only in the common brother, but also in the brother who exercises a service of authority.
At times fatigue and frustration can be due to the little results produced by our efforts or by the little social significance we hold in our society whether as Christians or Consecrated souls. This was, in fact, the reason for the fatigue and frustration of the early disciples and Christian communities. It is within that context, moreover, that the Lord described to them the parable of the seed in the Gospel we have just proclaimed (cf. Mk 4:26ss) where it states, Do not worry so much about the growth. This belongs to your Father in Heaven, who can make the seed grow until it bears fruit in abundance. All you have to do is simply sow. The other parable of the mustard seed (cf. Mk 4, 30-32), – which forms part of the parable of contrast – puts the beginning in opposition to the final result. Jesus warns his disciples not to judge by appearance and the initial results. The beginning is insignificant, but with time, it can become one of the largest trees (cf. Mk 4, 32).
It is not difficult to see in this parable the same situation many of us are going through. We want to see immediate results and when we don’t see them, we say that all the effort and work were worthless. It has been years since we’ve been struggling to change our lives and the life of our brothers and nothing seems to change. In fact, they are those who say, “Don’t even try; don’t waste your time; it is too late; no one will be able to change this situation…After much struggling to destroy the different idols that lord over our lives and the lives of our brothers, let say with Elijah, ‘Enough! Let me die’” (1K 19:4). In light of this, I ask you to read again these parables of the seed and the mustard seed as if they were addressed to each one of us directly. I invite you along with me to see them in our hearts and make them our own in times of temptation when fatigue, abandonment, or mediocrity encroach on our lives; to see them in our hearts so as to communicate them with passion in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2) to our brothers who are suffering through some of the situations described above.
Yes, brothers, just as the Lord spoke through the prophet to the people of Israel who had forgotten the Lord and ran after idols to return to the Lord, to their first love with passionate commitment to him (cf. Os 2, 9), so also today he makes the same appeal to us. He speaks to us also through the author of the sermon we have just heard in the first reading, telling us not to take for granted the journey made, overcoming so many difficulties by the love you professed. Rather, be encouraged by recalling your many struggles, constancy, and faithfulness throughout (cf. Heb 10, 32). Be strong and courageous and hope in the Lord (cf. Ps 36).
We ought to recognize, brothers, that we lack constancy and even faithfulness. At the onset of difficulty, the temptation we feel is to abandon the struggle and look back as we place our hand to the plough (cf. Lk 9, 62). However, we need to educate and be educated to persevere. It is not enough to show an initial willingness. We must utter with Mary, Behold me here Lord (cf. Lk 1, 38); we must know how to be and remain in the joyful moments of Cana (cf. Jn 2, 1), the sorrowful moments of the Cross (cf. Jn 19, 25), and whenever we are needed in every circumstance (cf. Acts 1, 14).
It can be said that all this is difficult in a society like ours where relativism and the temporary nature of options become palpable everywhere. It is true! Yet, if our life is a sacrament of the fidelity of the Lord toward us, then we cannot help but try with all our strength to remain in the firm purpose of the life we have embraced. In fact, in the formula of profession we say, with faith and firm will (cf. GG.CC 5, 2). Faith is an essential element for anyone who wishes to be faithful. This faith, moreover, must be confident, abandoned and available to God’s plan for us. Without faith permeating our whole person, our life would lack meaning. On the other hand, a firm will that employs all the means to remain faithful is required. While not everything depends on us, yet nothing will be done without our collaboration.
O Lord, today we turn to you as you taught us by praying, Lead us not into temptation. Lead us not into the temptation of giving up, fatigue, frustration, mediocrity, and defection. Keep our faith alive and our wills firm, so that in difficult times we may be encouraged and never look back. O Mary, Virgin most faithful, obtain for us from your Divine Son, a willing spirit and faithfulness.
Prayer to End Trafficking
Lord of freedom and love, we are saddened to know that more than one million people are trafficked into slavery each year.
The effects of contemporary slavery are felt in every one of the 180 countries where Franciscans serve.
As sons and daughters of our father St. Francis we are tormented by this reality that will leave devastating repercussions for generations to come.
Our hearts grieve for what our minds can barely comprehend, particularly when we hear of women, men, and children who are deceived and transported to unknown places.
We recognize this sexual and economic exploitation occurs because of human greed and profit.
We are sorrowful and our spirits angry that human dignity is being degraded through deception and threats of force.
Help the violators to be transformed and enlightened to realise the scope of their unjust actions.
Allow them to see the value and the dignity of every human person.
As Franciscans who serve the poor in a spirit of peace and justice, we must protest this atrocity and work against the demeaning practice of human trafficking.
Lord of Life, strengthen those whose hearts have been broken and lives have been uprooted.
Give us the light, grace, and courage to work with you so that we can all participate in the goodness of creation.
Fill us with the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with the victims so that we may all enjoy the freedoms and rights which have their source in your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Francis is known as the man who was most like Christ, "the first after the only one", the universal brother, a man of peace and reconciliation, the Poverello, the lover of the poor, the troubadour of creation. It is true. Francis of Assisi, however, was first and foremost a mystic, a real contemplative, enamoured with the poor and crucified Christ. Francis was not only a man who prayed, but, as his biographer Thomas of Celano says, he was "a man become prayer". The presence of God transfigured him until He made him "another Christ".
The Canticle of Creatures
Most High, all-powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, and the honour and all blessing. To You alone, Most High, do they belong and no human is worthy to mention Your name. Praised be you, my Lord, with all Your creatures, especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day, and through whom You give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour; and bears a likeness of You, Most High one. Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven You formed them clear and precious and beautiful. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which you give sustance to your creatures. Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister water, who is very useful and humble and precious and chaste. Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother fire, through whom You light the night, and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong. Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs. Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation. Blessed those who endure in peace, for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned. Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.
Saint Francis’ Blessing to Brother Leo
Saint Francis' Meditation Prayer
My God and my All!.
Saint Francis' Prayer Before the Blessed Sacrament
We adore You, O Lord Jesus Christ, in this Church and all the Churches of the world, and we bless You, because, by Your holy Cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.
Saint Francis' Prayer Before the Crucifix
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. Amen.
On April 16, 2011, with Evening Prayer I of Palm Sunday, the 8th Centenary of the Consecration of St. Clare along with the Founding of the Order of Poor Clares were both inaugurated in Assisi, Italy. It began with a celebrative act at the Cathedral of Saint Rufino, the site where the Bishop of Assisi 800 yrs ago handed a palm to the virgin Clare on Palm Sunday. Right on that same square of the Cathedral also stood her house. Then, the following day, on Holy Monday, St. Clare, the Little Plant of St. Francis fled to the hermitage of St. Mary of the Angels in order to be consecrated to the Lord through Br. Francis.
From that same square our celebration continued with a candle light procession and in song attended by the Friars Minor, Religious, and the laity all the way to the Porziuncola. The procession was mingled with readings from the life, writings, and letters of St. Clare done at different Monasteries of the Poor Clares of the city of Assisi, especially at the Basilica of St. Clare which holds her mortal remains.
Upon arriving at the Basilica of the Porziuncola, the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Br. Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, took a relic of the Saint and delivered a homily. He spoke about how God, at the Porziuncola, raised both the Order of Friars Minor and the Order of St. Clare, so as to live the Holy Gospel. The Minister General went on to give thanks to God for sister Clare of Assisi whom he described as a free woman in love with Christ, a new woman, a Christian woman, and a “handmaid” of Christ. Furthermore, as he lifted up his petitions to the Lord, the General wished everyone that this Centenary would be a special time for all the Poor Clares to know and live out their vocation better, so that they may be signs in the transcendent world of the love of God; that all the Friars Minor may intensify their fraternal rapport with the Poor Clares; and that all men and women may admire, not only Clare, but also find in her an example of total union with Christ.
Return to your first love (Cf. 2Ag 11). Opening of the VIII Centenary of the Founding of the Order of Poor Clares at the Porziuncola, Saint Mary of the Angels, 16 April 2011.
Dearest Brothers and Sisters, May the Lord give you Peace!
Magnificat anima mea Dominum. It is in the name of the Lord and with deep heartfelt joy and fraternal communion with all the Poor Clares that we open today the VIII centenary of the Consecration of Clare and, therefore, of the Founding of her Order.
We do so as we recall that luminous night when the young Clare abandoned the miserable vanity of that century by leaving behind “house, city, and family” – as she herself confessed in her Testament (cf. Test 8). She did so in order to espouse Christ “before the Altar of Mary” (LCl 8); embrace the way of life Francis indicated to her (Test 5); and which later on the “Lord Pope” Innocent IV blessed by approving the Rule of the Order of these Poor Sisters. We do this here at the Porziuncola where 800 years ago the Virgin Clare was received by Francis and his early companions, a gesture which, to this day, we relive with deep meaning as we welcome this venerable relic of the Little Plant of Francis (Rule 1,3). It is here, through her consecration to the Poor and Crucified Christ, where the Order of Poor Sisters bloomed, instituted by St. Francis as one who “founded, planted, and supported” them (cf. Test 48). It is here, moreover, that the Orders of both the Friars Minor and St. Clare were born, so that it can been seen that the Mother of Mercy gave birth to both of them in her dwelling (Legend of St. Clare 8).
Magnificat anima mea Dominum. Our hearts and our lips break forth with praise to the Father of Mercies for having inspired Francis to live according to the form of the Holy Gospel (cf. Test 14) and for having called Clare years later and her “little flock whom the Most High Father gave birth to in the Holy Church through the word and example of our Blessed Father Francis” (Test 46), in order “to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property, and in chastity” (Rule 1,1). At the same time, we give thanks to the Lord for having called many brothers to live the Gospel in the Franciscan Way of Life and many virgin Poor Clares to live the two fundamental notes of the Franciscan/Clarian Charism as indicated either by it name, i.e, Poor Clares, or by the Bull of Approval of the Rule, entitled, Unity in Charity and Highest Poverty, with Clare, the daughter of Ortolana (cf. LCl 1), as “Mother and Mistress” (cf. Preface of the Feast of St. Clare) who is bright by name and even more so by virtue” (LCl 1).
Magnificat anima mea Dominum for the gift of Clare, a woman who was both free and in love. The gesture which happened 800 years ago, which we recall today, was marked not only a break from a way of life that is described in the Legend as a “withering and false flower of worldliness” (LCl 4), but also and more so, marked the beginning of a path of total freedom. This path of total freedom was trodden under the guidance of Francis, who was her “pillar”, “her sole consolation after God”, and the “support” of the Poor Sisters (Test 38; cf LCl 6) until the journey was completed after the “long martyrdom of a serious illness” (LCl 44), “when the temple of the flesh was undone”, and the soul departed well escorted and “rewarded with eternal laurels” in eternal bliss (cf. LCl 46). At that moment, Clare was truly a free woman.
Since her youth, Clare was drawn by the Spirit, led into the desert where she heard his voice (cf. Hos 2, 14ss), thus discovering his beauty there. She thus allowed herself to be conquered by the “most beautiful among the children of men” (IICl 20), espousing him forever (Hos 2, 21), and entrusting herself fully to him who gave himself fully to us – as Francis would say (Lord 37). United to Christ like the branch is to the vine (cf. Jn 15, 4ss), she no longer sees or thinks of anyone else, for her “mind and heart” (cf. IIICl 12-13) are constantly turned toward the Lord (cf. IVCl 15). Such is the fascination of Clare with Christ, her Spouse with whom she is deeply in love and outside of whom she wishes to contemplate no other. Christ, for her, is the Spouse of a nobler lineage (ICl 7), whose appearance is more beautiful (ICl 9), whose beauty all the blessed hosts of the heavens unceasingly admire, and whose glorious vision will bless all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem (IVCl 10. 13).
Seduced by such beauty, she could not help but write yesterday to Agnes and today to each one of us, saying, “gaze attentively…, consider…, contemplate…” (IVCl 19. 22. 28), “hold fast…see…yearn to follow Christ” (II 18. 20), whose love “makes us happy” (IVCl 11) and “transforms your entire being into the image of the Divine One himself (IIICl 13). It is clear that Clare’s gaze on Christ is the gaze of a bride toward the bridegroom; it is the gaze of a woman deeply in love, in her case, in love with Christ, the “most beautiful among men”, who became the most vile of men for our salvation (IICl 19).
At this discovery, how can we not hurry on the night of Palm Sunday of 1211 (cf. ICl 8) and embrace the highest poverty? At such a discovery, what importance does any trial have? When Br. Rainaldo was inviting her to patience for her sufferings caused by her illness, Clare responded, “Ever since I came to know the grace of Jesus Christ, my Lord, through his servant Francis, no pain has been too burdensome, no penance too heavy, and no illness too unbearable, my dear brother” (Letter of St. Clare 44). At such a discovery, how can she not resist with firm perseverance to the impetuous violence of family members who sought in vain to dissuade her from her purpose? (cf. LCl 9). At such a discovery, how can we not be amazed here, in the Porziuncula, where she rejected the “allurings of Babylon”, “fled the world”, “allowed her hair to be cut off by the hand of the Friars, and abandoned her adornments forever”? This was the strength of the love which she felt for the poor and crucified Christ, which enabled Clare not to vacillate in her spirit or lessen in her fervor, or let herself be snatched from both the service of Christ and her quest for sanctity (cf. LCl 9). In the life of Clare and of every believer, according to the measure in which Christ gradually takes possession of the heart, everything else is of no account (cf. 2Cor 4, 7ss).
Clare, then, is a woman free and in love; Clare, a Christian woman as St. Francis called her; Clare, a new woman as Celano called her. In fact, in one of her letters to St. Agnes, she wrote, “If you suffer with him, with him you will reign. If you weep with him, with him you will rejoice. If you die with him on the Cross of Tribulation, with him you will possess the heavenly dwelling in the splendor of the saints” (IICl 21). Hence, to suffer with, to condole with, and to die with leads to reigning with, rejoicing with, and possessing with. Urged by the example of Clare, then, we, too, walk in her footsteps with that same drive and enthusiasm, “with swift steps” (IICl 12) and without letting ourselves be covered with “any shadow of melancholy” (IIICl 11).
Clare, “the handmaid of Christ” (IIICl 2), mother of innumerable daughters, sister and mistress of all of us, left us a great heritage to be appreciated with a grateful and willing heart, so that we may also become truly free out of love for our Lord Jesus Christ. This heritage, moreover, is about becoming daily true Christians who, in imitation of Clare, place themselves before the mirror so as to become a mirror ourselves for others.
May this Centenary lead the Poor Clares to deepen both their understanding of their own vocation as Clare asked when she said, “know your vocation well” (Test 4)! May they also deepen the spiritual, nuptial, and mystical experience of Clare in such a way that they, too, live out their own experience each day with greater intensity and be in the world witnesses of both the transcendent and limitless love of the Father of Mercies for us!
May this Centenary aid all the Friars Minor and members of the Franciscan Family to live a deep fraternal relationship with the Poor Clares! We need one another: the brothers need the sisters and the sisters the brothers. The Lord, Francis and Clare, all three have thought of us and have willed this complementarity between us.
May this Centenary awaken in all men and women of good will, not only the admiration for the Little Plant of Francis as a “clear mirror of example” (Bull of Canonization, 3), but also strengthen the desire to imitate her adhesion to Christ who “became our life” and of whom our blessed father Francis taught (Test 5)!
May the intercession of the Queen of Angels, Francis, and Clare obtain for us from the Most High, Omnipotent, and Good Lord, the grace of being men and women who are free from all that separates us from our Lord Jesus Christ!
- http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Christian Woman, obtain for us from the Lord the gift of a faith in him that involves who we are. May it be the source of our joy, hope, discipleship of Christ and of our witness in the world!
- http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, New Woman, obtain for us from Him who became our way the gift of true conversion and belief in the Gospel, so as to follow Jesus Christ with a life that is deeply evangelical and thus become new persons ourselves.
- http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Little Plant of Francis, obtain for us from your Spouse the gift of knowing how to be persons free from every form of idolatry and slavery, so that each one may live passionately for Christ and humanity in accordance with his/her vocation as Francis and you lived out your vocations.
- http://www.ofm.org/ofm/wp-content/themes/outoforder/images/PostBullets.png); margin-top: 0.5em; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0.3em; margin-left: 1em; color: rgb(117, 117, 92); background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">Clare, Mother and Sister, watch over us constantly with our Blessed Father Francis! Watch constantly over your brothers and sisters, so that, with creative fidelity, we, too, at every moment and circumstance, as disciples of Jesus, missionaries, witnesses, and bearers of the Gospel to every part of the earth. Fiat! Fiat! Amen!
Br. José Rodriguez Carballo, ofm
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