We, Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, commit ourselves by profession of vows to:
Manifest God’s universal compassion through inclusive non-dominating relationships of love.
Trust in God’s Providence and live in a manner that affirms the right of all to a just share of the earth’s resources.
Discern together the voice of the Spirit that has called us to be one in our diversity.
In the spirit of Francis, Clare, and Elizabeth Hayes, we promote ever-widening circles of communion as we:
Open ourselves to a life of continued conversion in response to the call of the Gospel.
Identify with the victim, the poor and the marginalized in seeking a peace built on justice.
Reverence creation, acknowledging the right of all God’s creatures to enjoy its blessings.
Address the need within ourselves for repentance, forgiveness and healing while promoting a message of reconciliation.
Fall 2014 ReflectionMany of our sisters in the USA Governance Circle gathered at various Franciscan places on October 3rd to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi. As followers of St. Francis, the Transitus, a reflection on the last hours of St. Francis’ life, serves as a reminder to us of St. Francis’ commitment to a Gospel way of life and invites us to reflect on the ways in which we are called to cultivate that Gospel spirit in our lives. The following is Sr. Margaret Henry’s reflection shared at the Transitus at 790 Centre Street.
We are gathered this evening to relive the last days and hours of the life of Francis of Assisi, to remember him. We have heard how, as he lay dying, he was filled with the joy of many memories: his conversion, his burning desire to follow the Jesus of the gospels, his love for the brothers given to him by God, his oneness with everything in the world of nature, his longing for the coming of “Sister Death.”
Let us for a few minutes go back to that time and place and join the brothers gathered around him for the last time. They were united in their sorrow and grief. Each of them, as one does when gathered around a loved one in the quiet time of waiting, was reminiscing about his own relationship with the dying man.
There was Bernard, a wealthy and learned man from Assisi, who was the first to join Francis, having been deeply moved by his preaching. He recalled how Francis and he had opened the book of the gospels and found the words of Jesus that became the basis for the poverty that was such an essential part of their lives: poverty in imitation of the poor Christ. He felt again the great joy of selling his goods and giving the money to the poor.
Sitting very close to Francis was Brother Leo, affectionately called by Francis “Little lamb of God” in contrast to his name. He was Francis’s constant companion and scribe, witness to so many of Francis’s encounters with God in prayer, not least of which was the imposition of the Stigmata two years earlier. Soon after this, Leo was disturbed by the thought that his beloved father was soon to die. To ease Leo’s distress, Francis wrote a special blessing on a piece of parchment. As Leo waited for the coming of Sister Death, he held it lovingly, knowing that it would give him consolation in the bleak days ahead.
Then there was the young brother invited by Francis one day to come with him to preach. They walked through the villages, joyful in their demeanor, speaking courteously and peacefully to one another and to all the people they met along the way. Then they returned home. The brother asked Francis why they hadn’t preached that day. Francis told him that they had, in fact, been preaching all day. This incident gave rise to the expression attributed to Francis: “Preach, and if necessary use words.”
Present too was Brother Angelo, who shared a love of music with Francis. He recalled the many journeys made with Francis throughout Italy. Their long walks from town to town were shortened by their joyful songs as they traveled, praising God as troubadours of the Great King. His most vivid memory was when, after Francis had composed the Canticle of the Sun, they sang it together for the first time. For Angelo, as for all of us, the canticle has beautifully depicted Francis’ affinity with the entire natural world, as he calls on each element, sun and moon, wind, clouds, fire, and earth to praise the Creator.
Then there was Brother Elias, away in a corner by himself. Francis had given him charge of the Friars. Elias had seen how quickly the group had grown over the years and had recognized that the simple life that Francis and the early brothers had lived was no longer possible, now that the number of friars had increased so much. This caused him much soul-searching and heartbreak. Many of the early followers of Francis were upset and angry about the seeming relaxation of the early rule of life. Brother Elias wanted to be faithful to Francis and yet provide for the brothers – he prayed that he would do the right thing after Francis was no longer with them.
All of them remembered the example Francis had shown them in following in the footprints of Jesus and imitating his life so closely.
Someone who was not there in person, but very much with them all in spirit, was Clare, the first woman to follow Francis. Like the brothers gathered around Francis, she was remembering: she recalled many aspects of her life: hearing Francis preach for the first time and being touched to the depths of her being by his spirit and his words; her journey on Palm Sunday night from her parents’ house down to the valley, where Francis cut her hair and clothed her in a rough habit similar to his own; her move to San Damiano, where Francis had received the message from the crucifix, “Go and repair my house, because it is falling into ruin.” It would be up to her now to carry on the spirit of Francis and support the friars.
And now, to bring the story back to the present – what about us? What are our favorite memories of the life of Francis? What part of his spirit will we take with us this evening from our commemoration of the days and hours before his death? What aspect of Gospel living will we cultivate? As we reflect on our own lives, we can take comfort in knowing that, in spirit, Francis of Assisi lives on.