I often re-use titles and part of reflections written earlier, just to get me going on fleshing out another thought. I was reading “Keeping Jesus Company”, an essay I wrote in Jan. 2004. What I recalled was this sentence: ” What we do for others needs to come from our love of Jesus. It is essential that Secular Franciscans develop a deeply spiritual relationship with Jesus, otherwise our external work means nothing.”
A few days ago, I placed in our website part of a letter written by our Minister General (OFS) in June 2017. His Pentecost letter, which is found on our home page: Fraternity Life. “We have to open ourselves in the fraternities, to make them real fraternities, that is to share our lives with our sisters and brothers. The goal is not to live a nice fraternal life but a true and honest one. We have to open ourselves. We shall not be afraid to expose ourselves to one another, to share our treasures, but also to accept and not to hide our weakness, our shortcomings! We have to be so close to each other that our souls can touch one another. We have to take the risk of being opened, we have to take the risk of the conﬂicts. Sincere and opened fraternal life means to be ready to share all that we have.”
How does my reflection “Keeping Jesus Company” relate to “Fraternity Life.” – it is this: “Unless we learn to open ourselves, to stop being afraid to expose ourselves to one another, to be so close that our souls can touch one another…” we simply won’t get through to the other person, the person we are ministering to.
Last weekend, I was in a shelter, with other people who were in a state of high anxiety (as I was) during Hurricane Irma (Saturday through Monday, September 9-11, 2017). During the storm, the wind was howling outside, making a lot of noise, one meets folks who are not their normal self. They talk about all sorts of memories, good and bad, providing an opportunity to minister. Those are times when they let others get close. They do not seek to hide their weaknesses and shortcomings, and neither did I. That makes one think – does it take a storm to get people to ‘open up’ to one another? Then there were others who didn’t say much but needed reassuring. There was also a gentleman, who really impressed me. He was in his late 80’s and had been studying Holy Scripture for years. He read me a quotation from Revelations, Ch. 21:1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
He asked me what that reminded me of, and the answer is Heaven – when people are this deep into reading Holy Scripture, there is a bond that forms, the joy of really sharing the Word of God. And all that while the winds were howling. Praise God, He was keeping us company in His Word.
The storm passed. For many people in Florida, it was an awful storm. A Category 4 or 5 hurricane is nothing to fool with (and yet, there were those who “rode it out” in substandard housing), in hard-hit areas in the Florida Keys, and Florida’s West coast. There were also those who were spared from the onslaught. I was grateful that my manufactured house came out of it alright – no damage at all. You see, the storm was coming head on for Vero Beach, where I live, but then at some point the path shifted, heading directly to the west coast. Big sigh of relief on our part, but as we thanked God we realize of course that there were others still in the eye of the storm.
Let us continue to pray for all storm victims, those who suffered and continue to suffer on a daily basis, in the Gulf states, particularly Texas, the Caribbean islands and in Florida.
Fred Schaeffer, OFS.
September 15, 2017
P.S. Hurricane Irma was the 4th hurricane I experienced.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs