Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Next Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and before you know it, it will be Passion Week. It won't hit most of us, until we find ourselves in Church to attend one of the Passion week's services, probably Holy Thursday. Please do think of what our Lord Jesus Christ went through in his humanity, during Passion week, culminating with Good Friday, His death on the Cross and then the Resurrection. You all know why He died, and for whom. Yes, He died for all of us, so that we can get into Heaven when our time comes. He rose from the dead to redeem us.
We mention that so casually as if it was the most natural thing in the world. But it isn't. The notion of one person giving his/her life for another was not popular then, and still isn't so widely practiced. In rare instances we read of beautiful examples of people laying it on the line for one or more other people. For example, a Chaplain to the Marine Corps, Fr. Vincent Capodanno who gave his life for those he served in Vietnam (1966-1967), whose story I recently reread in "The Grunt Padre" by Fr. Daniel L. Mode published in 2000. CMJ Marian Publishers. Fr. Capodanno was awarded the Medal of Honor (posth.) and a Purple Heart. This book is well written and I found it a very moving and inspirational story. I continue to thank Viet Nam Veterans for their service.
Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us that "the Lenten Season is set before us as a good opportunity for the intensification of prayer and penance, opening hearts to the docile welcoming of the divine will. During Lent, a spiritual journey is outlined for us that prepares us to relive the Great Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. This is done primarily by listening to the Word of God more devoutly and by practicing mortification more generously, thanks to which it is possible to render greater assistance to those in need.
All throughout his life, Saint Francis tells us to do penance and to pray, pray every day, and to be humble and meek. Those are the qualities of Jesus Christ, and since our charism calls us to deepen in bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to others, even without words, we must be strong in accepting the Pope's challenge and yet, at the same time be Christ by being humble and meek of heart.
The Holy Father, tells us that "human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages. The Commandment, "You shall not kill!", always requires respecting and promoting human life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is a command that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person's ability to be self-reliant. If growing old, with its inevitable conditions, is accepted serenely in the light of faith, it can become an invaluable opportunity for better comprehending the Mystery of the Cross, which gives full sense to human existence.
As Franciscans, we're definitely not going to kill anyone, but gossip, and half-truths can kill just as easily, as it denigrates and abases a person's integrity. When someone tells us something personal and asks it to be kept confidential, we must keep our mouths shut. Here's an example of what this could mean to you. In our parish we have a "prayer line," where someone can call in a need to be prayed for. These intentions are meant to be confidential... but oftentimes this isn't the case. People talk. And some talk too much!
Human life is a precious gift, indeed! But still, thousands of innocent human lives are taken through abortion, euthanasia, and war. We must pray that an end will come to all the killing.
The elderly suffer from many physical problems; they need our help and prayers. Pope John Paul II, continues: " The greater amount of free time in this stage of life offers the elderly the opportunity to face the primary issues that perhaps had been previously set aside, due to concerns that were pressing or considered a priority nonetheless. Knowledge of the nearness of the final goal leads the elderly person to focus on that which is essential, giving importance to those things that the passing of years do not destroy.
During Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday, "aided by the Word of God, let us reflect upon how important it is that each community accompany with loving understanding those who grow old. Moreover, one must become accustomed to thinking confidently about the mystery of death, so that the definitive encounter with God occur in a climate of interior peace, in the awareness that He "who knit me in my mother's womb” (cf. Psalm 139:13b) and who willed us "in his image and likeness" (cf. Gen. 1:26) will receive us.
Let us invoke Mary, protectress of all Franciscans, to intercede for all who are threatened in any way, the unborn, the young, and the elderly, that they may be allowed to find happiness and experience the love and goodness of her Son, Jesus. St. Francis, pray for us!
We pray that you'll spend some time before the Tabernacle with Jesus. And if this isn't possible, that you pray, St. Francis' prayer before a Crucifix:
Most High, glorious God, enlighten the shadows of my heart, and grant unto me a right faith, a certain hope and perfect charity, sense and understanding, Lord, so that I may accomplish Thy holy and true command.
F. Schaeffer, OFS
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Officers as of 1/10/2016
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS