Minister’s Message

National Minister’s Message November 29, 2019

 In the Footsteps of all the Franciscan Saints

A message to all the members of the Secular Franciscan Order

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Peace and joy to you in Christ Jesus!

I thought of you, each member of our Order, as I pondered these readings (from Franciscan Morning and Evening Praise) for the Feast of All the Saints of the Franciscan Order (Nov. 29):

Reading: Ephesians 1:15-18, 2:10,22 (with comments)

“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you, as I remember you in my prayers.  I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you (all of us!) a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you (we!) come to know …what is the hope (the great hope!) to which God has called you (to which God has called us!), what are the riches of God’s glorious inheritance among saints…(Think of it! This is our inheritance!)  For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them….  and you also (all of us!) are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Reading: Bonaventure, The Evening Sermon on Saint Francis (emphasis added)

“The heavens encompass everything, they contain all things, yet they are contained by nothing… There is no star however small whose immensity would not fill the earth and give it light.  Though the lights and rays of each star coalesce in the atmosphere, they are found to be distinct when we look up at the stars themselves.  It is something similar with devout souls whom the Holy Spirit enlightens with divine radiance.  These are the posterity of the Holy Spirit and this posterity is as the stars of heaven, for the Holy Spirit brings forth devout souls in an altogether wondrous way.”   (FAED II, 729)

In my prayer this morning I asked God to continue to guide each professed member of our Order, to grant each of you the wisdom and strength and perseverance that you need.  I am honored to be your minister.  You are the devout souls spoken of in this passage above; and I do not cease to give thanks for you, as I remember you in my prayers.  Thank you, my sister and brother devout souls!  Thank you for being such shining stars, as we are being built up into a dwelling place of God.  This truly is wondrous!

May God’s grace help us as we do what is ours to do, as we have been called.  And, “let us not take our minds off of God, but rather with a pure heart and mind, and in whatever way we are best able, let us serve, love, honor and adore the Lord God, for that is what God wants above all else.”  (Cf. Earlier Rule 22:25-26)

With love, prayers, and a grateful heart,

Jan

P.S. Happy New Year!  Let us look back in gratitude, and look forward in hope, as we journey together in love and compassion.

2019-11-30T12:35:35-05:00November 30th, 2019|Categories: Minister’s Message|0 Comments

National Minister’s Message – TAU-USA Summer/Fall 2019

by Jan Parker, OFS

Let Us Serve the Lord with a Pure Heart and Mind

(This article originally appeared in the Summer/Fall 2019 issue of the TAU-USA)

All of us like to get things done, and like many of you I have quite a to-do list. My list is kept on individual note cards, one task per card. I like to shuffle through the cards to prioritize what’s next and then work to get it done. There is something very satisfying about accomplishing a task collegially, creatively and joyfully, knowing you have done what is yours to do. What a great feeling to get something off our to do list!

No matter what method we use to help us get things done, there are times in life when we are stopped dead in our tracks. It may be loss, conflict or confusion, but when something big lands right in our path, we are often stopped short. We are consumed by what is before us, with little energy to do anything else. I had a profound experience of this a few years ago. I was paralyzed by a gut-wrenching quandary. My stress level was high, deadlines were upon me, and I faced a situation with seemingly no Franciscan way out. It was horrible. I kept asking myself what is the right thing to do? I went back and forth. I prayed and prayed. I consulted with friends, but I was stuck. On top of everything else, I was a new minister, and our council was preparing for its first visitation. More stress! Little did I know; it was this visitation that would change everything.

On the day of our visitation, our fraternal visitor asked to meet with each council member one-on-one. Somehow, I knew I needed to go first. I sat down to talk with her, filled with both hope and fear. I knew she was there to help me, but what could she do? She began by simply asking, “What’s going on, Jan?” and that was all it took. I could not hold back my tears. She listened with compassion as I poured out the whole story. When I was finished, she looked directly into my eyes, and said, “Jan, you must have purity of heart.” Her words cut keenly. She was right. Her wisdom at that moment was God sent.

It may seem odd to you that this answer would be so very helpful to me, but purity of heart was exactly what I needed.

Purity of heart sets us free. St. Francis calls us to this freedom, to “put aside every care and anxiety, to serve, love, honor and adore the Lord God with a clean heart and a pure mind[1].”

Purity of heart begins with prayer. We must “pray always with a pure heart[2].” I had been praying, but where was the center of my heart? Was it in God, or in myself? Purity of heart means we must clear our hearts of any ego attachments – our self-image, self-concern, self-preservation. Surrender is key. I needed to put aside the workings of my mind and let go of my obsessions – all my questions, doubts and fears. Only then would my heart be pure – and free to be open to the direction of God’s Spirit dwelling within me.

Purity of heart gives us new sight – a new way of seeing things. I was seeing things from my perspective, not as God sees them. “A pure heart sees into the depth of things. Our hearts are pure when we see earthly things from on high, that is when we see their true value[3].”  What was the true value in this situation? I needed to see this clearly. Once I could see the activity of the Holy Spirit in the midst of all that was happening, I was no longer paralyzed.

Ever since that day, the words “pure of heart” jump out at me. My understanding and appreciation of being pure in heart have steadily deepened. I see it in Francis’s prayer before the crucifix, “bring light to the darkness of my heart,” and in his Later Rule, “Desire above all things (supra omnia) to have the Spirit of the Lord and its holy activity [and] to pray always with a pure heart.” Most especially I see it in our OFS Rule: “Witnessing to the good yet to come and obliged to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters[4].”

Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago I learned that the Chinese word for “intelligence” or “bright” (慧) has a connection to purity of heart. The word consists of two pictograms: at the top is the word for broom (扫); the bottom is the word for heart (⼼). The bright person, the person of wisdom, has a heart swept clean. Blessed indeed are the pure of heart[5]!

“We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh,

but, instead, we must be simple, humble and pure.”

Francis of Assisi, Second Letter to the Faithful

[1] Francis of Assisi, Earlier Rule 22. 25-31

[2] Francis of Assisi, Later Rule 10.8

[3] Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer, pg 112

[4] Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Article 12

[5] Matthew 5:8

2019-12-06T10:37:34-05:00November 22nd, 2019|Categories: From the Newsletter, Minister’s Message|1 Comment

National Minister Message TAU-USA Spring 2019

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of Tau-USA)

NATIONAL MINISTER’S MESSAGE

by Jan Parker, OFS

The Rule: Rebar for Concrete Christian Lives

Thirty-five years ago, a wise Capuchin friar handed me a copy of The Ideals of St. Francis of Assisi[1], and suggested I read it. It was a pivotal 1 moment. I can still picture the outdoor wooden stairway where I sat down, opened this book and read for hours. I remember the cool breeze as night fell, and how thankful I was for the porch light. I did not want to put this book down. Each chapter made my heart sing a joyful “yes!”

That book was my first study of Franciscan spirituality. Here I began to learn what distinguishes St. Francis, and what constitutes his individuality, his personality, his soul, his spirit, his genius – his ideals. This book explores these ideals one by one: “Francis and the Gospel,” “Francis and Christ,” “Francis and the Eucharist,” “Francis and the Church,” “Francis and His Love of Poverty, ” continuing with chapters on Franciscan Livelihood, Humility, Obedience, Simplicity, Chastity, Penance, Joy, Brotherliness, Charity, Peace, Apostolate, Science (yes, science!), Piety, and Nature. It was during this time that I was beginning to learn, too, about the Franciscan Order. How delighted I was to discover that there was a Rule that incorporated these ideals! I embraced this Rule as a way to develop and live the ideals of St. Francis. I made my profession, and from that day forward, the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order has been the rebar of my life. Rebar?

It was Cal Prewitt who introduced me to the importance of rebar. Cal was a great friend, a fellow parishioner, and an engineer who helped oversee the construction of our new church. One day, as we toured the newly-poured foundation, Cal explained that rebar (short for reinforcing bar) is a steel bar or mesh of steel wires used to increase the tensile strength of concrete. He went on to say that rebar greatly increases the amount of stress that concrete can withstand before breaking, then added, “You know, the values we hold onto in life are like rebar – like steel giving strength to concrete.” The image stuck.

Rebar is a good image for how I see the Rule working in my life. The ideals embedded in our OFS Rule are very much like steel bars, encased deep in the center of my being. They give fundamental support to my life. They reinforce me, keep me from breaking away, and help me stay strong and true to my vocation, especially in times of stress. These Franciscan reinforcement bars guide and direct my actions.

This analogy of rebar returned to mind a few months ago when Pope Francis gave a homily about how our Christian lives need to be concrete. He reflected on the different opposites stressed in Matthew 7:21-27, notably between “saying and doing”:

“To say is a way of believing, but very superficial, half-way: I say I’m a Christian, but I don’t act like a Christian. To say it simply, it’s a bit like making oneself up as a Christian: only to say it is to make oneself up, to say without doing.” On the contrary, “Jesus’ proposal is concrete, always concrete. When someone approaches you and asks for advice, it’s always for concrete things. The works of mercy are concrete.”

Another opposition: rock and sand. Sand is “a consequence of saying”; it leads to a life “without foundations.” The Lord is the rock, “He is the force. However, very often one who trusts in the Lord doesn’t seem to have success; he is hidden . . . but he is solid. He doesn’t have hope in words, in vanity, in pride, in the ephemeral powers of life,” but in the Lord, stressed the Pontiff. “The concrete aspect of the Christian life makes us advance and build on that rock which is God, which is Jesus, on the divinity’s soliditynot on appearances or vanity, pride, recommendations… no, on the truth.”

Third opposition: the vain and the humble. The Holy Father quoted the Magnificat: “The Lord raises the humble, who are in the concreteness of the everyday, and brings down the arrogant, those who build their life on vanity, pride . . . they don’t last.”

Secular Franciscans should certainly exemplify this concrete living our Holy Father speaks of – living solid Christian lives on the foundation that is Christ. The rebar of our Rule is there to reinforce our efforts. As our sister St. Clare says, “Hold fast.”

As we close this Jubilee Year in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of our Rule, let’s make it a celebration not just of our Rule, but of our lives as Secular Franciscans. We must be resolute. There’s no point in celebrating the Rule unless we celebrate how we are living it. Let’s celebrate today and every day by living concrete Christian lives, grateful for the Rule and the rebar that it is.

[1] The Ideals of St. Francis of Assisi by Hilarin Felder OFM Cap., translated by Berchmans Bittle OFM Cap., published by Berziger Brothers, Printers to the Holy Apostolic See, copyright 1925

2019-12-06T10:40:29-05:00August 15th, 2019|Categories: From the Newsletter, Minister’s Message|3 Comments

OFS Mission Opportunity – To Assist Migrants and Refugees

Dearest Brothers and Sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!

We are in troubling times. We hear the news of migrants and refugees at the border, and we ask, “what is ours to do?”  As directed by our Bishops, we need to put two feet of love in action. We need both social action and charitable works.  Certainly, there are root causes that need to be addressed, and our country’s immigration laws need revision, but meanwhile, we must meet the immediate needs of these brothers and sisters. To that end, the National Executive Council OFS-USA offers this Mission Opportunity for Secular Franciscans to assist Project Oak Tree.

National Councilor, Donna Hollis OFS, lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico and helps to lead Project Oak Tree. Donna invites us to come and see, come and volunteer or simply send some items that are much needed. Please click here to view the Project Oak Tree Flyer for details.

Some of you may be called to come to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to assist as a volunteer (individuals and small groups are welcome). Others may want to collect and send items that are needed, or send financial assistance. I ask all of you to share the word about this project. The flyer can be downloaded from link above, and is also attached.

Project Oak Tree is supported by the Diocese of Las Cruces, and many churches in the area. Project Oak Tree gives much needed assistance to hundreds each week who have been released from detention and are awaiting relocation. They are in desperate need. This is our opportunity, as Franciscans, to help them.

May God bless us and guide us always!
Peace and all good,
Jan

Jan Parker OFS

National Minister
Secular Franciscan Order – USA

See Christ, Be Christ!  Share the Vision!
2018-2019 OFS-USA Theme

2019-06-30T15:25:00-05:00June 30th, 2019|Categories: Announcements, Minister’s Message|1 Comment

Easter Messages From Our National and International Ministers

Please click here to view and download an Easter greeting to all the Secular Franciscan Order from our Minister General.


Easter Message from National Minister OFS-USA

It is said that hope is the last thing to die.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Darkness came over the earth.

For many, hope died.

Hope died, but love did not.
Love cannot be killed.

Love lives.

Love lives in the heart torn open so wide that no sin could come between us and God,
Love lives in the wounds that heal,
In the blood and water pouring forth from his side.
Love lives in that first glad greeting of Easter Morning,
Jesus has Risen!

There is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for a friend.
This is the Love we live.

See Christ, Be Christ!
 Happy Easter!

 Your sister and minister,
Jan Parker OFS

2019-04-19T16:57:49-05:00April 19th, 2019|Categories: Minister’s Message|4 Comments

Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

May the peace of Christ be with you!

The Holy Land Friars have contacted me with a special request.   They are begging the help of all Secular Franciscans in promoting the Pontifical Good Friday Collection for the Holy Land.

The needs are many.  Please do what you can to help.  To learn more, see below, or spend some time on their website myfranciscan.org.

Remind others of this special collection, and thank you for your own prayers and financial support.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us as we journey together this Lent – and let’s make it a good one!

Peace and Lenten Joy,

Jan


The Holy Land Friars:

  • Provide ongoing emergency funds
  • Support 29 Catholic parishes, 4 homes for orphans and 3 academic institutions
  • Operate 16 schools for more than 10,000 pre-K through grade 12 students that are open to all faiths and currently serve Muslims and Jews in addition to the Christians in the Holy Land.
  • Provide university scholarships
  • Relocate and provide homes to Christian families
  • Rehabilitate destroyed homes for Christians families
  • Provide senior care facilities in Bethlehem and Nazareth
  • Create jobs for Christians in the Holy Land
  • Preserve 74 sanctuaries and shrines from the life of Jesus and the prophets
  • Support more than 100 men preparing to be priests or brothers
  • Assist Syrian and Iraqi refugee families in Jordan and Lebanon by helping to pay for rent, food, heat, schooling and transportation.

The Holy Land friars need your help. Syria has been devastated by a conflict that has displaced half of the country’s population. The friars refuse to abandon the Christians and others in need.

Help us raise awareness, prayers and financial support for the friars in Syria, who continue to celebrate Mass, provide pastoral care and offer humanitarian aid – water, medicine, food and more – in the midst of this devastating conflict.

2019-04-16T21:48:35-05:00April 16th, 2019|Categories: Announcements, Minister’s Message|0 Comments

Happy Feast of the Holy Family!

Beloved National Family,

On this Feast of the Holy Family, I rejoice and give thanks for our beautiful Secular Franciscan family! I am so thankful for all the goodness that I see in this family! What a joy it is to be part of this family!

Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, has made us members of God’s family in a holy covenant of love and flesh. He takes on our flesh, joins our human family and raises our heads to see our true dignity. Let us indeed raise our heads and not doubt our dignity before God. Let us not doubt God’s love, or what God has called us to. And if you, like me, have stumbled, then do not delay to rouse yourself. Let us run to the manger, be strengthened by the powerful grace of mercy and love, and run to the world singing our joyful song, “The Lord has come!”

Let us also immediately, in this holy tide of Christmas, turn to each other and ask forgiveness for hurts we have caused. Let us look into each others eyes with love and compassion, and as best we can, let each other know that “it’s ok.” In Christ all hurts are healed, so that even if it is impossible for us to physically give, or receive, that healing hug, we can trust Christ’s healing grace which covers us all. God knows our hearts.

Hail! the heaven-born Prince of peace! Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings!
Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing, “Glory to the new-born King !”

God bless our entire Franciscan Family, and every family!

“Have a rejoicing heart, try to grow holy, help one another, keep united, live in peace.
Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts.
Whatever you do, put your whole self into it, as if for the Lord and not for men.
Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts!”
(Reponsory, Office of Readings for the Feast of the Holy Family.)

I look forward to a blessed year ahead, with joyful expectation of how God will work in our lives!

Joy to the World!
And to each of you, peace and all good!

Love and prayers,
Jan

Jan Parker OFS
National Minister
Secular Franciscan Order – USA

2018-12-30T16:45:47-05:00December 30th, 2018|Categories: Minister’s Message|0 Comments

National Minister’s Message – Formation Visioning Workshop

“The Vision of God for the OFS” – an image inspired by the Holy Spirit, painted by Pat Serotkin OFS at the recent Formation Visioning Workshop

The journey of transformative visioning has begun – a journey that will test our readiness to authentically live the Franciscan life. Our experience at the recent Formation Visioning Workshop awakened our souls. We must now allow God to work this great change in us.

Through a dedicated page on our website we are making available to everyone the materials from this gathering. Those who were present need to enlighten others and share what was experienced. The vision given to Francis and Clare can unfold once again in our time.

Guide us, O Lord, by your Spirit’s transforming power, that we may come to be, as Francis was, formed into a more precise embodiment of the likeness of Christ. Amen.

2018-09-15T16:31:43-05:00September 15th, 2018|Categories: Formation, Minister’s Message|0 Comments

June 2018 Minister’s Message — Our Jubilee Begins!

Jan Parker’s newest Minister’s Message marks the 40th anniversary of the OFS Rule of 1978 (June 24th) as well as the Jubilee Year declared by CIOFS to celebrate this important milestone. The message poses two important questions: “What does the 40th Anniversary of the Rule mean for us, if not to live more fully who we are called to be?” and “How are we to do this?”

Jan offers a wealth of resources to help us accomplish what these questions encourage us to do and she suggests a patron saint for our Jubilee year — one that perhaps may surprise you.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TEXT

2018-06-23T20:21:04-05:00June 23rd, 2018|Categories: Minister’s Message|0 Comments

May 2018 Minister’s Message – National Fraternity Elective Chapter

With the June 13th deadline for making nominations fast approaching, Jan Parker’s newest Minister’s Message reviews the key elements involved in National Fraternity Elective Chapters (the next of which takes place this coming October). These include:

  • What are the essential aspects of a Chapter?
  • What is the significance of an Elective Chapter?
  • What positions are being elected?
  • What are the qualifications for servant leaders?
  • Who can make a nomination?

The full article is now available on the website. Here’s an excerpt:

CIOFS adds that an elective chapter, at any level, is celebrated to: (1) reflect together on the situation of the Fraternity, (2) decide what should be done for the life and mission of the Order, (3) invoke the help of the Holy Spirit so that He may purify the hearts, enlighten the minds and make those present docile to His motions at such an important time for the life of the Fraternity, and (4) choose and vote for the responsible people to guide and animate the Fraternity.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL TEXT

2018-05-30T20:49:14-05:00May 30th, 2018|Categories: Minister’s Message|1 Comment
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