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FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

The prophet Isaiah reminds us in our First Reading:
‘They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.’

From Sr. Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking,” who has been a hero in teaching us about nonviolence and social action:

‘As for my faith... what has happened to eighteen-year-old me, who joined the convent in search of mystical union with God? The thirst for God is still there, it never goes away; I am haunted by God. No matter how exciting an achievement or sweetly satisfying a personal relationship or dazzling a new insight, there’s always this thirst, this aching... for what? It drives me to prayer—or to distraction. But often, when prayer does rise, it’s the words of St. Augustine that well up: “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” ’

‘My spiritual practice looks something like this: Every day I set aside time to meditate; guided by the scripture readings of the liturgical year, I attend to happenings in my life and in the world. What’s happening on the river? [These two paragraphs are from her memoir, “River of Fire.”] Where is God moving? Who’s suffering? How do I let them into my heart? What am I called to do? I’ve learned from women spiritual guides how to attend to my own soul: How am I? Tired? Sad? Anxious? Let me stop and breathe and listen. Time to rest, to simply be and let God, my Creator, gaze upon me. Time to put down the burdens, time to float on the river, time to play, time to dig into a hefty book, time to go to Grand Isle and walk the beach.’

What special treat are you going to give your Self this Advent?
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On November 29, the Franciscan family celebrates the Feast of All the Saints of the Seraphic Order -- the countless Franciscan men and women who have lived out the Gospel of Jesus Christ by following the patterns of life left by Francis and Clare of Assisi. This date was chosen for the feast as Pope Honorius III confirmed the Rule of St. Francis on November 29, 1223.

We rejoice that for the past 800 years, the Franciscan way of life has continued to inspire exemplary women and men. There now have been about 90 Friars Minor ("Lesser Brothers") officially recognized as saints by the Church -- 21 who lived before the various divisions formed within the Order, and since then, 47 Friars Minor of their various independent branches: the Friars Minor (OFM), Conventual Franciscans, and Capuchins. Three of them have been recently canonized by Pope Francis: Ludovico of Casoria, OFM (+1885), Junipero Serra, OFM (+1784), and Angelo of Acri, OFM Cap. (+1739).

Twelve Poor Clares have been officially recognized as saints, and thirteen women and men who belonged to various Third Order Regular congregations, most recently Dulce Lopes Pontes, SMIC (+1992). Then there are about 70 canonized women and men who were Secular Franciscans, four of whom were recognized by Pope Francis: Angela of Foligno (+1309), Pope John XXIII (+1963), Amato Ronconi (+1292), and Marguerite Bays (+1879).

And of course, there are a greater host of Franciscan women and men who have been declared "Blessed" and Venerable Servants of God. And all of us have known truly holy Franciscans whose lives were known to a smaller circle of people and so will never be officially "canonized," but deeply reflected authentic Gospel values to us. They all continue to inspire us and we remember all of them today.

The illustration is the "Great Mosaic" from St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, depicting Mary Immaculate as Queen of the Seraphic Order, with Francis, Clare, and a variety of Franciscan saints below.
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