Monthly Spiritual Message, February 2013
By Br Louis Schmid OFM Conv.
Lent is soon to be upon us just as we finish the last of our Christmas cake.
The Church’s liturgical cycle continues to draw us through the whole act of our redemption. For many of us, the New Year so far has been battling the heat and being vigilant with bushfires. (I write this on the 13th of January, when rain and floods may still come). The ashes of Lent call us to battle sin in our lives with renewed trust in the power of Christ’s grace and to be vigilant as God’s children with the tools of prayer, fasting and alms.
We know that our Seraphic Father Francis had a great love for Jesus Crucified and for the sufferings and passion of Our Lord: “His selflessness becomes more complete as his thought of our Lord turns to pity for him.” “Love is not loved!”, cries St Francis. “I weep over the sufferings of my Lord Jesus Christ, and I ought not to be ashamed to go all over the world weeping aloud for his sake.”
We know that the Way of the Cross, was developed and promoted by the Franciscans until adopted by the universal Church. It would be good, as a Fraternity or individually, to make the Stations and to reflect upon the sufferings of Christ for our salvation. Through the Way of the Cross, I particularly ask for the grace to be forgiving. You may ask for the same grace, remembering the words of St Francis from his Praises of God in the Pater Noster: “As we forgive those who trespass against us; and what we do not fully forgive, do You, O Lord, make us forgive fully, so that for Your sake we may truly love our enemies and devotedly intercede with You for them, giving nobody evil in return for evil and trying to be helpful toward everybody in your name.”
The Franciscans have been known as the Order of Penance. Encouraged by Saints Francis and Clare, we sacrifice for ourselves of what is good to grow in closer communion with God and to show our sorrow for the sins of ourselves and the world. Maybe we should ask ourselves what penitential acts we do in our lives, remembering that our selected practices are not for show. Penance is to draw us closer to Our Lord Jesus Christ in union with His sufferings and to help us to be more loving towards our neighbour.
The Church universal still holds each Friday of the year as a day of penance unless it’s a solemnity. The bishops of each country are to determine the custom for each nation. In Australia, abstinence from meat is optional, but if we do eat meat on Friday then we are called to do another act of penance. As Franciscans, we are called to live a moderate way of life in keeping with our state of life. We know that in Australia we live in a very materialistic society. We all know so much food is wasted around the world when millions are starving. Maybe we should try to be more vigilant about the wastage of food, at least in our homes.
As we go through Lent, we know that Easter is around the corner. Our crucified Lord is raised from the dead. He is victorious over evil and death. Jesus Christ is our God and all. He loves us and calls us to Himself. With the unfolding of the Royal Commission enquiry, the shameful, hideous cases of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy and religious will be represented. As a friar, I find these cases shocking and shameful. In this, I am sure that I speak for other friars and religious.
How can consecrated persons do these horrific acts to children? I have heard the answers and have been witness to endless discussions about this situation. As a friar, I do feel ashamed that children and families have been harmed, and often their faith destroyed by the wicked actions of fellow religious and clergy. This shame I try to offer as reparation to Our Lord for these horrors inflicted on the People of God.
Also, the voice of Christ’s Church and the preaching of the Gospel can lose credibility. People have lost their faith over these scandals. This is the time to turn more to Christ and pray for healing and forgiveness for the Church, the victims and abusers, and to offer this shame in reparation for the horrible abuse of the innocent children and their families. May St Francis be a model for us to continue to love Christ and His Church.
Pope Benedict during his last visit to Fatima spoke about this iniquity within the Church in relationship to the warnings of the Blessed Virgin.
May Our Lady of Sorrows and our Mother comfort her poor children in this valley of tears, and by Her intercession help the Church to be renewed by the purifying power of the Holy Spirit.
Br Louis Schmid OFM Conv.
National Spiritual Assistant, OFS – Oceania