The Sacred Scriptures, on the other hand, are most fittingly likened to a honeycomb, for while in the simplicity of their language they seem dry, within they are filled with sweetness. —Hugh of St. Victor, Didascalicon
When I was perhaps ten years old my mother and father, devout Catholics who sought a deeper and more intimate spiritual experience than just their parish life, began attending meetings of the Third Order of Saint Francis, one of the many tertiary clans in the Church; the first two Orders being men and women who have sworn vows and belong to one of Catholicism’s many congregations of priests, monks, brothers, and sisters.
Lent is upon us—and it is the perfect time to look inward and focus on our unworthiness so that we can thank God for his goodness. Friar Frank Jasper tells us that the Lenten journey is unique to each of us, though we are all on the same journey. Enjoy these words of wisdom as we prepare for the holiest season of the year.
Some of my Franciscan sisters and brothers will not like what I’m about to write here. And what I’m about to say can easily be misunderstood, so I will try my best to be clear: Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing particularly special about Franciscan beliefs and spirituality!
Franciscan spirituality boldly puts a big exclamation point behind Jesus’s words that “The last will be first and the first will be last!” and Paul’s “When I am weak I am strong!” Upside-downness is at the heart of our message, always prompting us to look more deeply and broadly. is opens up our eyes to recognize God’s self-giving at the far edges where most of us cannot or will not see God, such as other religions, any who are defined as outsider or sinner, and even to the far edge of our seeing, toward those who are against us—our so-called enemies.
The Swiss Air flight from Zurich to Rome is the last stretch on a journey that’s proven one thing: I am simply not built for long flights. I’m taller than average: long on legs, short on tolerance for tight spaces. Sleep is impossible and sitting still for hours is a chore. It’s my mind, though, that is my true adversary: Every time I’m in the air, Don McLean’s “American Pie” plays in my head like a cerebral iPod with a grudge. But all fears and discomfort vanish as our airplane descends over a spectacular Italian wheat field ablaze with a gold I have never seen. I know I’m not in Cincinnati anymore.
His name was Francis, the son of Pietro Bernardone, a cloth-merchant, and Lady Pica, who was of French origin. They lived in Assisi, Italy in the late twelfth and early thirteenth century. He was a man born of wealth, a leader who dreamed of knighthood and who went to war on a high steed only to be brought low to the earth in defeat and imprisonment that marked him with what has been the fate of countless soldiers and prisoners of war throughout the centuries.
East of the Piazza del Commune in Assisi, stands the Cathedral of San Rufino. Near the church and its adjacent piazza once stood the home of the nobleman and knight, Favarone Offreduccio and his wife, Ortulana. On July 16, 1193 or 1194, Ortulana gave birth to their first of three daughters whom they named Chiara.
I turned away from the lost-and-found baggage counter at the airport in Rome. Over the course of the last two and-a-half hours, it had become clear that if my suitcase was anywhere in the airport, no one could tell me exactly where that might be. I had waited in line for over an hour, been shown into a room full of unclaimed bags and asked if mine was among them (it wasn't), then waited in line again to file a report.
What is it about the Franciscan spirit that draws so many people in? Br. Casey Cole, OFM, says it's an unmistakable sense of family that makes it so appealing. And Saint Francis wouldn't have it any other way. "Francis wanted everybody to live this life," Br. Casey says. "He wanted people to live the Gospel." In this week's Friar Friday video, Br. Casey delves deeper into the Franciscan spirit and how it enriches the faith lives of those it touches.