2015 - "Three Little Words" by Terry Ferguson
The Fruit of the Spirit
2016 - "Through the Year with Francis of Assisi"
by Murray Bodo
2017 - Thanks-Living

Sunday, July 31, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 31

A Prayer for God's Will

"All-powerful, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant that we poor creatures might do, by your grace, what we know you want us to do, and to want always what is pleasing to you, so that interiorly cleansed and enlightened, and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, we might follow the footsteps of your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by your grace alone come to you, O Most High, you who live and reign glorified in perfect Trinity and in simple Unity, God Almighty forever and ever.  Amen."  --St. Francis, Letter to the Whole Order

"By your grace alone"......our human pride clouds our ability to walk in God's grace alone.  Until we do, however, our faith will be weak because we will not know God's Will for us.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 30

St. Francis's Rule for Hermitages

....."And they are not to permit anyone to enter the cloister where they reside.  And they are not to eat there.  And those brothers who are the mothers must strive to keep people away and, in obedience to their minister, let them keep their sons from everyone so that no one can speak with them.  

And the sons are to speak with no one, except their mothers and their minister and their custos,* when he wishes to visit them with the blessing of the Lord God.

And whenever they agree it is time to do so, the sons are to exchange roles with the mothers.  And let them seek to observe all the above with most careful attention."  --The Rule for Hermitages

*A minister is a local superior; a custos is a regional, provincial superior.

St. Francis's hermitage was a cave.  Their devotion to prayer was such that they did not want to be distracted from it.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 29

St. Francis's Rule for Hermitages

"Those brothers who wish to live a religious life in a hermitage are to be three or at most four in number.  Two of them are to act as mothers and are to have two sons or at least one.  The two who perform the role of mothers are to follow the life of Martha, the other two that of Mary.

Those who follow the life of Mary are to have a cloistered space within which each one is to have his own cell in which to pray and sleep.  And let them always recite compline of the day immediately after sunset.  And they are to strive to preserve silence and to recite the hours, rising even for matins, and let them seek first the kingdom of God and his justice.  And at the proper hour let them say prime, and after terce they may break silence, in order to speak or have recourse to their mothers; and when they wish, they may ask alms of them for the love of God, just as little poor ones do.  And afterward they are to say sext and none and vespers at the required times*" . . .

*Matins, lauds, prime, terce, sext, none, vespers, and compline are the hours of the Roman Breviary, the official prayer book of the clergy.

These brothers were to live as hermits.  It's interesting to me that St. Francis would assign 2 of the 4 to be "mothers"and then break down their duties between being a "Mary" or a "Martha."  I would probably be assigned the Martha role--unless God was forcing me to leave my natural bent.  It highlights the importance of mothers.  Mothers should take their roles in their children's lives very seriously.  It saddens me that so many have to, or even want to, delegate it to someone else.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 28

On Praying the Divine Office

"With all earnestness, I ask my lord minister general to see to it that the clerics pray the Divine Office with devotion before God, not focusing on melody of voice but on harmony of mind, so that their voices be attuned to their thoughts and their thoughts to God.  Thus they will please God by the purity of their minds, and not charm people's ears with the preciousness of their singing voices."  --St. Francis, Letter to the Whole Order

I've always enjoyed singing so St. Francis's admonition highlights for me to take care that when singing praises to God that I do not get caught up in the music, but rather keep my focus on the words.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 27

A Prayer of St. Francis

"All-powerful, most holy, most high, supreme God, all good, highest good, wholly good, who alone are good, let us give you all praise, all glory, all thanks, all honor, all blessing, and all that is good.  So be it.  So be it.  Amen."  --Writing of St. Francis

Writing down my praises to God helps me incorporate them into my body since it involves my hand and my eyes.  It puts an emphasis to my words that wouldn't be there, if I just kept them in my head.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 26

Reaching Out to Others When We Are Sorely Tempted

"Once when the Lord Cardinal Leo of the Holy Cross asked St. Francis to spend some time with him in Rome, the saint chose a rather secluded tower that was divided into nine arched vaults that looked like little hermit cells.

The first night, after he'd been praying to God, he was just getting ready for bed, when the demons came and began a hostile attack upon the saint of God.  They assailed him so long and so vehemently that he was left as if half dead.  And when they left, and he finally got his breath back, Francis called to his companion, who was sleeping under one of the other vaulted arches.  And when he came, Francis said to him:  'Brother, I would like for you to stay here by me, because I am afraid to be alone.  Demons have just been beating me.'  The saint's voice was shaky and his whole body was trembling like someone in the grips of a violent fever.  And so St. Francis and his companion stayed awake talking all night." --Celano, Second Life, 119

When we are weak it is helpful to have a companion who is strong in the Lord.  Seeking help from such a one is not a failure of our faith, but rather a wise decision.

Monday, July 25, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 25

St. Francis Speaks to the Demons

"Do what you want to me, wicked and deceitful spirits, for you can only do what the Lord allows you to do.  Therefore I am happy to suffer everything that God lets you do to me."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 10:3

When we gain the understanding that whatever befalls the true Christian has been allowed by God, we can relax and put our trust in Him to use it for our good.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 24

The Herald of God

"Every evening a herald should proclaim or use some other signal to announce to all the people that they are to render praise and thanks to the Lord God Almighty."  --St. Francis, Letter to the Rulers of the People

If you have a chiming clock, it could be your reminder to "render praise and thanks to the Lord God Almighty".....every hour and half-hour!  Sometimes when all is quiet and I suddenly notice a bird singing outside my window it will draw me to praise God.  There is so much good in our world that we shouldn't even need reminders to praise Him!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 23

Prayer to the Living God

"Let us bless the Lord God,
living and true;
let us always offer him
praise and glory.
honor and blessing,
and refer every good to him.
Amen.  Amen.  So be it.  So be it."

--St. Francis, Office of the Passion

God is the author of all that is good.

Friday, July 22, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 22

We Should Appropriate Nothing to Ourselves

"St. Francis used to say things like this to his intimates:  When you are at prayer and the Lord visits you with a new consolation, you should, before coming away from prayer, raise your eyes to heaven, join your hands, and say, 'You have sent this sweet consolation from heaven, Lord, to me an unworthy sinner.  I now give it back, so that you may keep it for me, for I feel like a thief of your treasure.'  And say also, 'Lord, take your good gift from me in this world and keep it for me in the world to come.'  Thus should you speak in prayer.  And when you come away from prayer, you should appear to be only a poor sinner, and not someone who has just received a new grace.  For you can lose something precious for the sake of a small gratification of your vanity and easily provoke him who gave not to give again."  --Celano, Second Life, 99

If our hearts aren't right when we receive God's blessings we will forget that it's God's grace that gives us what we need--not anything we've done to deserve it.  He gives us gifts in order that we may have something to give others.  We are to comfort others as He has comforted us.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 21

A Living Prayer

"Often, without moving his lips, St. Francis would meditate for a long time and, concentrating, centering his external powers, he would rise in spirit to heaven.   Thus, he directed his whole mind and affections to the one thing he was asking of God.  He was not then so much a man who prayed, as a man who had become a living prayer."  --Celano, Second Life, 95

We are all called to be living prayers for our needy world!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 20

How St. Francis Prayed

"When Francis prayed in the wilds and in solitary places, he would fill the woods with sighs, water the earth with tears, beat his breast with his hand, and there, making the most of a more intimate, secret place, he often spoke aloud with his Lord.  He would give an account to his Judge, entreat his Father, speak with his Friend, chat amiably with his Bridegroom.  Indeed, in order to offer to God with every fiber of his being a singe, multifaceted holocaust, he would ponder the many facets of him who is Supremely One"  --Celano, Second Life, 95

St. Francis would not only worship God with his whole heart, soul, and mind, but also with his whole body.  When we ponder the "many facets" of God, as St. Francis did, we, too, should be able to come away filled with the longing to serve the LORD.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 19

A Morning Prayer

"I shall thank you, O Lord, Most Holy Father,
King of heaven and earth, because you have consoled me (cf. Is 12:1)
He is the God of my salvation:
I shall have faith and not be afraid (Is 12:2)
Yahweh is my strength and my song,
he has been my Savior (Ps 118:14).
Your right hand, Yahweh, shatters your foes,
and by your great majesty you fell your assailants (Ex 15:6-7)."  --St. Francis, Office of the Passion

The ways God has consoled me?  Through a stranger's smile as I pass them on the street....a sweet note from someone I know.....a bird song that breaks the silence outside my window......a book on a sale table that speaks to my heartache.....a soft wind that suddenly comes up and blows gently across my cheek....my cat wants to sit on my lap or my dog comes and sits by my feet....

Monday, July 18, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 18

A Psalm of St. Francis

"Great is Yahweh, worthy of all praise,
more awesome than any of the gods (Ps 96:4).
Give to Yahweh, families of nations,
give to Yahweh glory and power,
give to Yahweh the glory due to his name (Ps 96:7-8)!
Offer up your selves and carry his holy cross:
follow his commandments to the end (cf. Lk 14:27)."  --St. Francis, Office of the Passion

What is wonderful about following God's commandments is that we can trust they are right and good.  Even if we don't always understand why it makes a difference, especially when others are not following His commandments, we don't have to worry whether we're making the right decision.  Sometimes it doesn't matter which of two right and good things we choose to do, for in following God's commandments, we can be sure they'll eventually lead us on the path He has prepared for us.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 17

Special Graces in Prayer

"When you are visited by the Lord in prayer, you should say, 'Lord, you have sent me this comfort from heaven, even though I am a sinner and unworthy, and I entrust it to your keeping because I feel like a thief of your treasures.'  And when you leave your prayer, you should seem to be only a poor little sinner, and not someone especially graced by God."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 10:4

We can easily fall into a prideful state when God blesses us because we feel we've done something to deserve it.  Scripture reminds us that we ought not think too highly--nor should we think too lowly of ourselves.  Low self-esteem opens the door to our enemy just as much as pride!  Instead, we should see ourselves as God sees us--His children who need Him.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 16

St. Francis and Solitude

"The Blessed and Venerable Father Francis wanted only to be taken up with God and to purify his spirit of the dust of the world which eventually clings to us in our daily association with others.  So he would periodically withdraw to a place of solitude and silence . . .  He would take with him a very few companions from among those more intimately associated with his inner life, so that they might keep people from visiting or disturbing him, and might lovingly and faithfully keep guard over his quiet."  --Celano, First Life, 91

The dust of the world that clings to us is anything that separates us from being in God and He in us.  Elijah could only hear God speak to him once the clamor of the world had died down.  Our own thoughts often compete for our attention.  Being still and listening in the quiet should be a part of every servant of Christ.

Friday, July 15, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 15

The Ladder to God and Neighbor

"The angelic man, Francis, like the heavenly spirits on Jacob's ladder, ascended to God and descended to his neighbor.  In fact, he had learned to divide the time given him to gain merit in such a way, that he labored manfully spending part of it helping his neighbor and part in the sweet withdrawal into contemplation."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 13:1

This is something we must remember to do as we serve the Lord--spend intentional time with Him so that we will be nourished and refreshed ourselves.  Otherwise, we won't have what we need to give to others.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 14

A Psalm of St. Francis

"The humble have seen and are glad.
Let your courage revive, you who seek God (Ps 69:32).
Let heaven and earth and seas,
and all that stirs in them, acclaim him! (Ps 69:34)
For God will save Zion,
and rebuild the cities of Judah,
and people will live there on their own land;
the descendants of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there (Ps 69:35-36)."  --St. Francis, Office of Passion

This could also be an analogy of the kingdom of heaven. . . ."those who love his name will dwell there". . . .those who love God will dwell in the kingdom of heaven.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 13

Pray Always in Spirit and Truth

"Let us adore God with pure hearts because we need to 'pray continually and never lose heart' (Lk 18:1), for the Father seeks such worshipers (cf. Jn 4:23).  'God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth' (Jn 4:24)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XXII

To worship God in spirit and truth is to worship Him with our whole hearts.  If we worship Him with all of ourselves our lives become continual prayers because His Spirit will be fully in us and truth will reign in us.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 12

St. Francis's Faith in Churches

"The Lord gave me such faith in churches that I used to simply pray these words:  'We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you because through your holy cross you have redeemed the world.'"  --The Testament of St. Francis

There are organizations now that call themselves churches but do not profess that Jesus's death on the cross is necessary for our redemption.  I wonder what St. Francis would say about that.

Monday, July 11, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 11

Francis Addresses the Brothers Who are Priests

"I beseech in the Lord, all my brothers who are priests, now and in the future, and those who desire to be priests of the Most High, that when they celebrate Mass, they be pure and offer purely and with profound reverence the true sacrifice of the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that they offer it with a holy and sincere intention, and not from worldly motives or out of fear or love of some human being, as though pleasing humans (cf. Ep 6:6; Col 3:23).

But let their will, aided by the grace of God,  be directed to him, desiring by means of the Mass to please the Most High God alone, because he alone works in the Mass as it pleases him."  --St. Francis, Letter to the Whole Order

We are always in danger to doing something from a place of habit rather than intention when it is repetitive.  That is why being present, conscious of all that we do must be a priority.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 10

Our Attitude Toward Receiving Christ in the Eucharist

"Receive the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ with great humility and with veneration, remembering the words of the Lord:  'Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life' (Jn 6:54); and, 'Do this in remembrance of me' (Lk 22:19)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XX

To receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ is to accept His sacrifice as ours and then to let the Holy Spirit have free reign in us.  Whether you believe as St. Francis that Holy Communion is an actual partaking of His flesh and blood or that the sacrament of Communion is our reminder of the Last Supper communion, we must receive the truth of what Christ has done for us and allow it to feed our body and soul.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 9

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus

"The Father's 'home is in inaccessible light' (1 Tm 6:16), and 'No one has ever seen God' (Jn 1:18).

Because God is Spirit, he can be seen only in the Spirit; for 'it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer' (Jn 6:63).

Likewise, neither is the Son, in that he is equal to the Father, seen by anyone but the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, all who saw the Lord Jesus Christ and did not believe, in the Spirit, that he was divine, the true Son of God, were condemned.  And so, too, now, all who see the sacrament of the Body of Christ, which is consecrated by the words of the Lord upon the altar in the hands of the priest in the form of bread and wine, and do not see and do not believe, in the Spirit, that it is divine, indeed, the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, are condemned, because the Most High himself gives witness and says, 'This is my body, and the blood of the covenant' (cf. Mk 14:22, 24)."  --St. Francis, Admonition 1

When the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to us and we still do not believe we are condemned.  Not because God condemns us but because it is only the Holy Spirit who can save us who are already condemned.  If we refuse to be saved, we have condemned ourselves.

Friday, July 8, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 8

A Psalm-Prayer

"Praise our God, you servants of his and those who 
fear him, small and great alike (Rv 19:5)
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

Let heaven and earth praise him
who is glorious:
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

And all the living things in creation--
everything that lives in heaven,
and on earth, and under the earth,
and in the sea (Rv 5:13):
Let us praise and glorify him forever." --St. Francis's Prayer Before Each Hour of the Office

How do "all living things in creation" praise God?  The animals and plants?  I think they do it by being what God created them to be rather than trying to be something other than the kind of cat or tree or whatever they were made to be.  Humans are born different from one another, but then they often try to be like someone else.  We are not content with being who we are--the way God created us.  It's one thing to improve upon ourselves through knowledge and experience, but quite another to try to look like and be like someone else.  To praise God is to accept who you are, then let Him perfect you through faith and obedience.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 7

A Psalm-Prayer

"Holy, Holy, Holy
is the Lord God, the Almighty;
who was, and is and is to come (Rv 4:8):
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

O Lord our God, you are worthy
to receive glory and honor and power (Rv 4:11):
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

Worthy is the Lamb that was sacrificed
to receive power, riches, wisdom,
strength, honor, glory and blessing (Rv 5:12)
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

Let us bless the Father and the Son
with the Holy Spirit:
Let us praise and glorify him forever.

Bless the Lord, all the Lord's creation (Dn 3:57):
Let us praise and glorify him forever . . ."  --St. Francis's Prayer Before Each Hour of the Office

As I typed the last line of each stanza, "Let us praise and glorify him forever," the word "us" stood out to me.  To glorify God individually is a beautiful thing, but to glorify Him collectively is to bring even more attention to Him in a world that needs to know Him personally.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 6

The Comfort of Prayer

"Francis always sought to keep his spirit in union with God through uninterrupted prayer, so that he would not be without the consolations of the Beloved.  In his dedication to contemplation, prayer was the comfort of his life; and as if he were already a citizen of heaven and a fellow citizen of the angels, he went in ardent search of the Beloved, from whom he was separated only by a partition of flesh."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 10:1

If we can keep our thoughts turned toward God, momentum will carry us directly to Him.  Where God is comfort awaits.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 5

A Night Prayer

"How long, Yahweh, will you forget me?  For ever?
How long will you turn away your face from me?
How long must I nurse rebellion in my soul,
sorrow in my heart day and night?
How long is the enemy to domineer over me?
Look down, answer me, Yahweh my God!
Give light to my eyes or I shall fall into the sleep of death.

Or my foe will boast, 'I have overpowered him,'
and my enemy have the joy of seeing me stumble.
As for me, I trust in your faithful love, Yahweh.
Let my heart delight in your saving help,
let me sing to Yahweh for his generosity to me,
let me sing to the name of Yahweh the Most High!"
--St. Francis, Office of the Passion (Ps 13)

St. Francis begins his prayer as though he believes God has forgotten him, but that is not the case.  Instead, as he indicates in line three, it is the rebellion in his heart that is causing him to feel as though he's been abandoned.  This is what we must remember when we feel "outside" God.  We must sing, as St. Francis did by the end of his prayer, the praises of God!  Then our hearts will be restore to Him.

Monday, July 4, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 4

Persistence in Prayer

"St. Francis used to say:  'If you, O servant of God, are  upset, for any reason whatever, you should immediately rise up to prayer, and you should remain in the presence of the Most High Father for as long as it takes for him to restore to you the joy of your salvation.'"  --Celano, Second Life, 125

Capturing our negative thoughts and turning them into positive praise and thanksgiving to God can't help but restore our joy because that is where God resides.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 3

The Fragrant Words of Christ

"Receive with divine love the fragrant words of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And those of you who do not know how to read should have them read to you often, and commit them to memory, and live them unto holiness to the end, for they are spirit and life (cf.Jn 6:63)."  --St. Francis, Letter to All the Faithful, First Version

This is the second devotional I've read today on the fragrance of Christ.  The first one was one I wrote today in 2003.  The scripture I included was 2 Corinthians 2:14-16:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 2

A Psalm for Evening Prayer

"Note:  St. Francis knew the psalms so well that he could quote many by heart or, like a great musician, he could play variations upon them, taking verses from various psalms and other scriptural passages and working them into a new whole.  His own psalms, then, give us some indication of the associative workings of his mind and the breadth and depth of his knowledge of Scripture.

Clap your hands, all peoples,
acclaim God with shouts of joy.
For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious,
the great king over all the earth (Ps 47:1-2).
Yet, God, my king from the first (Ps 74:12)
has sent his Beloved Son from on high
to bring salvation to the world.
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad!
Let the sea thunder, and all it holds!
Let the countryside exult, and all that is in it (Ps 96:11-12).
sing a new song to Yahweh!
Sing to Yahweh, all the earth! (Ps 96:1)"
--St. Francis, Office of Passion

Years ago I had to memorize a Shakespeare sonnet.  What I discovered was rather astounding to me.  Not only did I finally come to understand what Shakespeare was saying (in the convoluted way in which he wrote his verse) I found I was able to write my own response to his musings in his style.  No wonder we are admonished to memorize scripture.

Friday, July 1, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - July 1

Prayer, a Haven of Safety

"Francis's safe haven was prayer, not prayer of a few minutes, or empty, presumptuous prayer, but prolonged prayer, full of devotion and the serenity of humility.  If he began late, it would be dawn before he finished.  Whether walking, sitting, eating or drinking, he was rapt in prayer.  At night he would retire alone to pray in abandoned, neglected churches.  That was how, by God's grace, he overcame many fears and anxieties."  --Celano, First Life, 71

Continual prayer is to pray without ceasing.  It is to think of each thought as a prayer to God because everything belongs to Him.  This is why we must pay attention to the thoughts swirling in our heads and be ready to oust any not worthy of a child of God.