Saturday, October 4, 2014

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To Love Christ is to Share in His Passion

In Mark's Gospel, a scribe asks Jesus: "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus responds: "The most important is this, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord our God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (See Mark: 28:28-30).'"

In the Early Rule, Saint Francis admonishes his followers to live in imitation of the gospels. Like Christ Jesus, Francis urges us to love God and to love others with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Francis reminds us that God, by his act of creation, has given us these great gifts: our hearts, minds, souls, and all our strengths and talents. According to Francis, we should use these gifts to love and praise God throughout our lives. He exhorts us to employ "every effort, every affection, every emotion, every desire, and every wish" to fulfill Christ's commandment to love (Early Rule, Chapter 23). We, of course, are probably not destined for sainthood. We, of course, often fail in our mission to love God and neighbor with every fiber of our being. For these reasons, God shows us his love and mercy through prayer and through the Church. But God also shows us how to love through the lives of his saints -- like Francis.

Francis loved God. Francis loved Christ Jesus, his Son. He loved them as much as any human being could love their creator and redeemer. Perhaps like no other saint in the course of history, Francis prayed that he might share in the life and passion of Christ Jesus. "He wanted somehow to suffer with Jesus, and so, two years before he died, this prayer rose from the depths of his love for the crucified Christ: 'O Lord, I beg of you two graces before I die: to experience personally and in all possible fullness the pains of your bitter passion; and to feel for you the same love that moved you to sacrifice yourself for us (Little Flowers of Saint Francis)." In response to this prayer, Francis was gifted with the stigmata: the five wounds of the crucified Christ. We may shrink from Francis's prayer that he might share "in all possible fullness" the pain and suffering of crucifixion. In our weakness, we may fear that such a prayer might just be answered!

Nevertheless, we can pray for the grace to share in some smaller way in the Lord's passion. We can pray for the grace to love, honor, and praise God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We can pray for the grace to love others, even those who may not love us. We can pray for the humility to forgive, even those who may not forgive us. And we can pray for the humility to put the needs of others before our own, even when our needs are overlooked by those closest to us. We may not be called to share in Christ's passion in the same way that Francis shared in it. But we are called to pray for the grace to grow closer to Christ Jesus. The price of that intimacy may involve some pain, some sacrifice, some suffering. And so we pray with Saint Francis:

Let us desire nothing else,
let us wish for nothing else,
let nothing else please us or cause us delight,
except our Creator and Redeemer and Savior,
the one true God...
Let nothing hinder us,
let nothing separate us,
or nothing come between us.
Let all of us:
wherever we are,
in every place, at every hour,
at every time of day,
everyday and continually,
believe truly and humbly,
and keep in our heart,
and love, honor, adore, serve,
praise and bless,
glorify and exalt,
magnify and give thanks
to the Most High and Eternal God,
Trinity and Unity,
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our Daily Prayers

For our families & friends, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our parish communities, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our Holy Father, Pope Francis, we pray: Hail Mary...
For our departed brothers & sisters, we pray: Hail Mary...
For the Catholic Church throughout the world, we pray: Hail Mary...
For peace & justice throughout the world, we pray: Hail Mary...
Our Father...

O Saint Francis,
who received the wounds of Christ at La Verna,
the world longs for you,
that icon of our crucified Lord.
It has need of  your heart,
open always to God and to others;
of your bare, wounded feet,
of your pierced hands raised in supplication.
It longs for your voice so frail
yet forceful with the power of the Gospel.
O Saint Francis,
help the people of our age
to recognize the evil of sin
and to seek purification from it in penance.
Help us to become free from the structures of sin that oppress our world.
Rekindle in the consciences of those in government
an urgent need for peace between nations and peoples.
Instill in our young people your freshness of life,
that is so capable of withstanding the snares of the culture of death.
O Saint Francis,
teach those injured by every type of evil
the joys of being able to forgive.
Teach those crucified by suffering, hunger, and war
the joys of reopening the doors of hope.

Saint Francis, pray for us!
Saint Clare, pray for us!
Holy Men & Women of Assisi, pray for us!
Our Lady of Angels, pray for us!

The prayer above is a translation of a prayer by Pope John Paul II, who visited the Sanctuary of La Verna on  September 17, 1993. If you would like to learn more about the Assisi Project and opportunities for faith formation, prayer, pilgrimage, retreat, and spiritual direction in the Franciscan spiritual tradition, please contact Cliff Garvey at Pax et bonum! May the Lord give you peace!

For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for adult faith formation and retreat, please contact Cliff Garvey at May the Lord give you peace!