Franciscan brothers and sisters from fraternities in the
Regional Fraternity of Eastern Canada have shared their reflections
Regional Fraternity of Eastern Canada have shared their reflections
A Sharing on the Incarnation
A Call to Franciscan Spiritual Life
The Incarnation: God-becoming-Man and Our Humanity being Touched by the Divine, Gerry Gabriel, ofs
Recently I was asked by my fraternity (St. Francis of Assisi, Cornwall PEI) to provide a sharing on the Incarnation as an On-going Formation session at our monthly meeting in December. This proved to be challenging and caused me to devote time, reflection and study to this endeavour. The result proved to be spiritually most rewarding. What commenced as a task ultimately became a gift…my understanding of the Incarnation was greatly enhanced. As a result, I wish to share this gift with others. Dear OFS brothers and sisters, here is my presentation:
I have been asked to help us focus on and celebrate the Incarnation. To do this effectively, I would like to suggest that first we need to (individually and collectively) acknowledge that the Incarnation is a mystery…indeed it is one of the greatest sacred mysteries that God has bestowed upon us.
So initially, before I present what I have to share about the Incarnation I want to help us better appreciate the nature of “mystery”. In a way, mystery offers a certain richness and beauty to our lives. Accordingly, I propose that rather than our viewing mystery as a conundrum to be solved, we need to perceive mystery as a sacred reality to be entered into… to be embraced…to be lived and ultimately celebrated.
To help connect these words about mystery with the Incarnation, I want to refer us to the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. In this letter Paul calls “Christ a mystery” and sees Christ as “an unfathomable treasure” and refers to his coming among us as ” a mystery….a mystery kept hidden through all the ages” and that Christ’s birth was ”according to God’s plan [ a plan beyond human understanding]…formed from all eternity”. Finally, it may interest you to know that In the New Jerusalem Bible translation, Chapter 3 of St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is entitled: Paul, servant of the mystery.
Thus, notwithstanding any of the thoughts/ideas I share with you this day, the Incarnation will remain quintessentially a mystery…yes indeed a sacred mystery that we are all invited to celebrate joyously. With that in mind, let me begin.
It has been said that Franciscans are more Christmas people than Easter people i.e. that the Birth of Christ is more central to our charism. In this we receive direction from St. Francis who called Christmas “the feast of all feasts”. Why was Francis so enthralled with Jesus’ birth? I have seven explanations to share with you…undoubtedly there are many more:
But let us step outside Franciscan circles for just a moment…for many have written about the Incarnation. I have a series of statements for your consideration that are worthy of thoughtful reflection:
I want to share a short excerpt from St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. This is what Paul has to say about the profundity of Christ’s birth:
“…when the completion of time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman…so that we [might] receive adoption …[and] God sent into out hearts the Spirit of his Son crying ‘Abba Father’ …so you are …an heir by God’s own act.” Ga 4: 4-6
Thus, in the words of St. Paul, the Incarnation is God reaching out to his people…in love and friendship…inviting us to become part of His family. It was act of promise and covenant: to be with us always…to lead us out of darkness…with the light of knowledge of God…to feed us…to nourish us…to strengthen us …on our journeys…with truth…with life….with abundant spiritual blessings.
So my friends, the Incarnation was an integral part of God’s plan: to share with us His Divinity by sharing in our humanity. In short, the Incarnation changed the world…changed our world…changed Francis’ world. It is little wonder that Francis held this God-come-among-us event in such high esteem and wanted to teach us to celebrate Emmanuel’s coming with abundant joy!
In closing I wish to extend best wishes for a Blessed and Holy Christmas celebration in 2020 to all my fellow OFS members. It has been a year with many challenges given the Covid-19 restrictions preventing many of us to meet face-to-face in fraternity gatherings. May we meet each other spiritually “at the crib” this Christmas!
The Mother Teresa Connection
Our Regional Minister, Michel David uses a short quote after his name and title, "The good you do today will often be forgotten, do good anyway" but do we know the history behind where this quote comes from?
The above quote comes from "The Paradoxical Commandments" which were written by Kent M. Keith when he was 19, a sophomore at Harvard College. He wrote them as part of a book for student leaders entitled The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, published by Harvard Student Agencies in 1968. The Paradoxical Commandments subsequently spread all over the world, and have been used by millions of people.
Mother Teresa put the Paradoxical Commandments up on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta. The fact that the commandments were on her wall was reported in a book compiled by Lucinda Vardey, Mother Teresa: A Simple Path, which was published in 1995. As a result, some people have attributed the Paradoxical Commandments to Mother Teresa.
On Friday, May 29 2020, five members of the same formation group from St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity, Cornwall PEI, celebrated their 25th year of profession as Secular Franciscans. Some felt that it would be useful for these members to share a reflection on their 25 years of following the Franciscan way of life.
June 11, 2020 - My reflections after 25 Years as a Professed Secular Franciscan, Sherrill Guimond, ofs
I was presented at one time in an early retreat to address two questions: what experiences in your life have shaped your identity? and what experiences in your life have shaped your image of God?
It reminded me of an old saying, ”You don’t really know where going until you know where you have come from.” I grew up in a loving family but my Dad, who was Catholic, basically believed that church on Sunday was enough and my Mom was an inactive Protestant. I did go to a local Catholic school until grade nine which was run by Sisters of St Martha but it was pre-Vatican II so no real connection to scripture accept what we heard at church on Sunday. The school was attended by all religions but Catholic kids started class ½ hour early for religious study. I can only say that I had mixed messages about “religion” growing up. I did continue to regularly attend church but mostly because my friends went and also because I became quite involved with the youth group at church.
After marriage, I drifted away from regular mass until we adopted our two older boys and felt the need to ensure that they had a solid grounding in Catholicism. We started going to church regularly and I volunteered to teach catechism. Even after our children left home we continued to attend regular mass on Sunday. It happened one Sunday at mass that there was an invite from two Secular Franciscans to “Come and See.” They asked if we felt attending mass on Sunday was enough – could there possibly be something more needed in our relationship with God. I was probably more hesitant in responding to this call than my husband, but in the end, we both decided to check it out further.
And so began my journey in Franciscanism. Right from the beginning I always felt welcomed at any of the meetings and I enjoyed the formation journey. There were many moments when I felt uncertain and hesitant as I begin to find myself “stepping out more and more into the deep” but I had my best friend (my husband) by my side and the growing friendship of those Franciscans around me that kept me willing to continue.
While on my first retreat, I wrote down in my journal a prayer taken from The Word Among Us, June 1995, that touched me and expressed how I was feeling – “Heavenly Father, increase our faith in your mercy and love. Through your Spirit, move us to be men and women of trust, generosity and prayer. Help us to look to your Son in all times of testing. Father, we want to be faithful to you through our lives of praise to You and service to our brothers and sisters.” Also in the journal, I wrote “that this is an entirely new way of life for me founded in faith in an all-loving and all-merciful Father…give me the grace to open my life to You and allow You to work in me and help me to become all I was born to be.”
A truly powerful blessing came when I travelled with my husband and other Franciscans to the birthplace of St Francis in Assisi. Our lodging was run by the Gray Nuns and the whole experience confirmed for me such a total sense of being part of a family started by St Francis, some 800 years ago, that I will be eternally grateful to God. Someone once expressed to me a line that spoke to my heart “we are not different from others in the church but we do bring a different flavour.” In 2019 George & I, led by Fr Guylain Prince OFM, travelled to the Holy Lands and spent time in many places that Jesus travelled. Again a profound and blessed experience in our journey.
These last 25 years have been a conscious, but more often an unconscious discovery of who I am in the eyes of my God. I know that I am still a work in progress but I am grateful for where the Spirit has led me so far and I also know that it was the Holy Spirit who spoke to my heart in following this journey as a Secular Franciscan. I believe that all of my life events have been heightened and strengthened by my saying YES to this Franciscan way of life on May 29, 1995. And so the journey continues …..
May 29, 2020 Some Thoughts About the Past 25 Years, Gerry Gabriel, ofs.A little more than 25 years ago I became involved with the Secular Franciscan Order, an order that St. Francis of Assisi created almost 800 years ago. On May 29, 2020 I (along with four other members, including my wife) celebrated the 25th anniversary of our permanent profession to a Franciscan Way of Life (in accordance with the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order). As a benefit of this celebration, I thought it worthwhile to reflect on how my involvement with the Secular Franciscan Order has impacted my life.
Quite frankly becoming a member of the Secular Franciscan Order has changed my life! As I look back, I believe I took “the path less travelled”, to paraphrase Robert Frost. Thanks to my fraternal brothers and sisters, my faith became much more central to my daily living. By way of explanation, when you become a member of the Secular Franciscan order you are called to live your faith in fraternity. Thus, as you journey spiritually you learn from each other and are mutually supported within a community of a local fraternity. In other words, your growth and development in the Franciscan Way of Life is fostered communally.
There is no reasonable way of capturing and relating the many influences of a Franciscan way of thinking and living over these past 25 plus years. Thus, I have chosen to offer more of an overview:
o A deeper reverence for the celebration of Holy Eucharist
o A more peaceful, tolerant approach to my encounters with others
o A respect for genuine dialogue, that leads to enhanced mutual understanding
o A belief in the importance in inter-faith openness in search for common ground
o An awakening of a stronger environmental and social justice ethic as captured in the
advocacy of Pope Francis “to hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”
In summary, I reiterate that being a member of the Secular Franciscan Order has changed my life for the better, much better. My life is definitely more peaceful and more joyful. I don’t want to leave the impression that my life is blissful, for it is not. I still need to face many individual tasks and challenges, on a daily basis. What being a member of the Secular Franciscan Order has provided me with are “specific tools” to deal with the daily challenges and encounters in a much better way. For this I am most thankful. I am also grateful for my fraternal brothers and sisters and their encouraging examples. I also want to extend a special thank you to my wife Martha who has made the Franciscan journey that much more meaningful and enjoyable.
Gerry Gabriel, ofs
Member of the St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity, Cornwall, PEI
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
LOVE THEM ANYWAY
If you do good, people will accuse you of
selfish, ulterior motives,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
If you are successful,
you win false friends and true enemies,
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
DO GOOD ANYWAY
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY
What you spent years building may be
People really need help
but may attack you if you help them,
HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY
Give the world the best you have
And you'll get kicked in the teeth,
GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU'VE GOT ANYWAY.
The Beatitudes: Matt 5:1-12
These reflections were developed by two Secular Franciscans in the Atlantic Area of the Regional Fraternity of Eastern Canada, Doug Hagen and Sherrill Guimond. In a shorter form, they were presented at an Area meeting, and then, these texts became the basis for one of the retreats hosted by St. Francis of Assisi Fraternity, Cornwall, PEI.