Category Archives: Men’s communities

New Affiliate Community: Franciscan Brothers Minor

Franciscan Brothers Minor Group Bishop 1The Franciscan Brothers Minor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, totally dedicate themselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary by consecrating themselves to her and are one of the newest affiliate members of the Institute on Religious Life.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor are a Franciscan community which seeks to grow in holiness by emulating Our Lady. They take four vows including the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as, a vow of total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They see this fourth Marian vow as the first and crowning jewel of the four vows. Through this vow the community seeks to model their lives in imitation of Our Lady and, as a result, grow closer to Christ. They base their lives off the rich Capuchin-Franciscan tradition and strictly adhere to the Rule of 1523.

The friars lead austere lives as they seek to imitate the poverty of the Seraphic Father, St. Francis of Assisi. The community does not run its own parishes, schools, shrines or other centers for apostolic works in order to maintain their community. The poverty of the friars can be clearly seen as they go barefoot. Poverty allows the friars to uphold freedom as a mendicant community.

The Franciscan Brothers Minor enjoy a special relationship with Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades who initially established the community in the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA, on November 19, 2009. The friars moved to Indiana after Bishop Rhodes was transferred to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 2010. His Excellency officially erected the Franciscan Brothers Minor as a public association of the faithful on February 11, 2011.

All of the apostolic efforts which the Franciscan Brothers Minor undertake are done in service of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The friars work to promote life through pro-life ministries, serve the poor and host retreats. They also provide spiritual assistance to the Franciscan Sisters Minor, a Third Order Regular Community of Cloistered Franciscan women, though there is no juridical connection to the Franciscan Brothers Minor. This new community of Franciscan friars is quickly growing with nine friars having taken perpetual vows, eleven in temporary vows and six novices.

The Spiritual Exercises as the Path to Discernment

Loyola-detail

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Basque knight who became a great saint and founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Church faithful can be guided by the inspiration of this great saint, particularly through his illuminating insights into discernment.

The very life of St. Ignatius aids in seeking holiness and the peace of God’s will. Bedridden from an injury suffered in battle, Ignatius read books on the life of Christ and lives of the saints which led to him experience a great conversion. These books inspired him to abandon his old way of life and seek to live out God’s will.

In Manresa, Spain, Saint Ignatius formulated the Spiritual Exercises which explain how one should discern God’s will, as he strove to after his conversion. This led him to be proclaimed the patron of spiritual exercises by Pope Pius XI in 1922. St. Ignatius explained that the Spiritual Exercises are a way of “seeking and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

The four stages of the Spiritual Exercises allow one to discern God’s will which can be particularly helpful when discerning which vocation God is calling one to. Pope Francis, formed in the spirituality of St. Ignatius within the Society of Jesus, said in discussing the Spiritual Exercises that they provoke several questions: “Is Christ the center of my life? Do I really put Christ at the center of my life? Because there is always the temptation to think that we are at the center.” The Holy Father is showing the importance of placing Christ at the center of one’s life in order to truly discern and follow His will for us.

The Church can clearly see the fruits of these Exercises which place Christ at the center of one’s discernment by the testimonies of those who have performed them. Great saints, like those who inspired St. Ignatius’ conversion, have undertaken the exercises including St. Charles Borromeo, “to adopt a more perfect form of life”; St. Teresa of Avila, to become, “the mistress of lofty contemplation”; and St Francis de Sales, “to serve God with the greatest possible fidelity.” These saints are a testament to the power of the Exercises and inspire those in discernment to also learn from the patron of spiritual exercises.

Many within the Church today seek to learn from the Spiritual Exercises with the Oblates of the Virgin Mary being just one example. While performing the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of a Jesuit priest, their founder, Ven. Pio Bruno Lanteri, experienced the mercy of God and strove to become a witness to this mercy by preaching fidelity to the Church and Our Lady. The spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary flows from the Spiritual Exercises and aids them in becoming experts in spiritual direction. If you would like more information on the Oblates of the Virgin Mary or how you can practice the Spiritual Exercises with them please visit their website: www.omvusa.org.

Prayer of Saint Ignatius
Dearest Jesus teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.
Amen

500th Anniversary of the Birth of St. Philip Neri

Toronto Oratory
Toronto Oratory

Oratorians around the world are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of St. Philip Neri. He was born in 1515 in Italy and founded the Congregation of the Oratory in 1575. The most famous Oratorian is Henry Cardinal Newman, convert and blessed. Our Sunday Visitor (July 12, 2015) has a nice article on St. Philip in the latest issue.

Oratorians live in community and under a Rule but are not religious, in that they do not profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. They live freely in a community but are free to leave at any time. This prompts the old saying that “true sons of St Philip are known at their burial.”

Tomb of St.Philip Neri - Chiesa Nuova, Rome
Tomb of St.Philip Neri – Chiesa Nuova, Rome

Each Oratory is independent,  observing the way of life outlined by St. Philip .  It was shortly before Pentecost, 1544, that Philip received the grace of his vocation as the founder of the Oratorians. The Holy Spirit filled his heart in so dramatic a fashion, while he was praying in the catacombs, that his rib cage was split around his heart. This was verified after his death.

St. Philip’s biography is a wonderful read because he did such unexpected things to bring people to God, using humor and the ridiculous to make his points.  One man asked is he could wear a hair shirt and Philip said, yes, but wear it on the outside! Philip once shaved half of his beard off before an important event. Laughter is good medicine for the soul!

The work of the apostolate is prayer, preaching and the sacraments. For a wonderful and thorough overview of an oratory including historical references, visit the Toronto Oratory website. It lists the ten characteristics of the classical Oratorian vocation:

  • Instituting a school of prayer
  • Promoting spiritual direction and sacramental confession
  • Extending the liturgical movement
  • Cultivating Eucharistic devotion
  • Fostering saving knowledge of the Holy Scriptures
  • Keeping alive the lore of the saints
  • Inculcating moral literacy
  • Elaborating an “historical orthodoxy”
  • Supporting cultural and intellectual endeavors
  • Encouraging a graced encounter between clerics and the laity
  • Assisting the revival of community and family life
  • Carrying out the New Evangelization

Sounds like a plan for life for all!

“The great thing is to become saints.” St. Philip Neri

 

 

 

 

He Heard the Master’s Call – Br. James Curran, l.b.s.f.

Br. James (l) and Br. Paul O'Donnell, f.b.p.
Br. James (l) and Br. Paul O’Donnell, f.b.p., at the 2006 IRL National Meeting, Mundelein, Illinois

On June 28, 2015, Br. James Curran, l.b.s.f., long-time friend and supporter of the IRL, went home to the Lord. He died as he lived, a humble Franciscan, without pomp or ceremony. Brother James received the IRL’s Pro Fidelitate et Virtute award in 2006 for faithfully living our his brotherhood and for supporting the IRL as a Board Member, coordinator of the Boston Regional Meeting and as chairman of the Forum of Superiors of Communities of Men.

But he is best remembered as a friend to the poor.

Brother’s journey to religious life is an amazing story. Born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, his father was killed during World War II. Inspired by his mother, Brother James became a Franciscan tertiary as a teenager but it was not until 1967 that he received the special grace that would define the rest of his life. While performing with the Boston Opera Company at the White House before President Lyndon Johnson and other distinguished guests, Brother James said that he “was confronted with a compelling desire to change my life around immediately. As if in a mirror, I saw the emptiness of my life and the lifestyle.”

lbsf
Br. James with Cardinal O’Malley

He detached himself from possessions and perks and began to spend more time in prayer and adoration. The Lord opened his eyes to see the poor and destitute who populated the streets of Boston. “What a miracle of grace God worked when they became for me what the leper was for St. Francis – instruments of peace and love to turn my selfish heart away from egotistical pursuits and once again towards God!”

In 1970, Brother James founded the Little Brothers of St. Francis, patterned after Francis’ Rule for Hermitages. The brothers lived deeply contemplative lives in urban Boston, preaching the Gospel by their Christian hospitality and healing presence. The brothers disbanded in December of 2012 and in the last few years, Brother James lived in nursing homes, knowing the loneliness that goes with being alone with infirmity.

In his final newsletter, he wrote that he was “still convinced that God gave us our charism as a simple response to the Gospel and will continue to call others to that forma vita (way of life) so dear to St. Francis: contemplative presence among the poorest of the poor.”

May others follow in his footsteps, albeit big ones to fill. We will miss you Brother James. May you rest in the peace of Christ after your long labors.

The Finest Work of Charity: Fr. Joseph Presley, IC

fr presleyA familiar face throughout the years at the annual IRL National Meeting has been Fr. Joseph Presley, IC, a member of the Institute on Charity, more commonly known as the Rosminians. Recently we and many others received a letter from Father that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about six years ago. Over the years, it has slowly limited his activities but until recently, he has always been able to celebrate the Mass with assistance. Now, he believes he should stop celebrating the Mass on Sundays because he does not know if he will always be able to finish. As he says, “That would mean that some people might not be able to fulfill their grave obligation to to hear Mass on Sunday.”

Father can only see the ground in front of him as he walks, perhaps, he says, emblematic of the imagery in Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman’s famous poem Lead Kindly Light.

“Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see, The distant scene—one step enough for me.

At the conclusion of the letter, he included an excerpt from a letter his brother had written to him a couple months ago. It is worth keeping as consolation to us all when faced with debilitating situations.

Father Joseph, I know that perhaps there is not much I can do for you now, but I know that (my wife) and I think of you often and offer many prayers for you in your ministry and for great strengthening in Faith, Hope and Charity. I recall as one of my finest memories, the Mass you said the day after your first Mass. It was at a nursing home next door to Rosmini House in Peoria and there were half a dozen or so aged nuns who participated in the celebration. I remember how physically broken down they were, some could not even hold their heads up…I remember your words of encouragement to them that after a lifetime of serving others and now finding themselves unable to serve any more and to require others to now serve their needs, it would be easy to become discouraged…but that now they were free to do their finest work of charity: to pray without ceasing for the conversion of sinners. I remind you of this as a way of encouragement and knowledge that your suffering is not in vain: that sinners are watching you and that your response to suffering is a powerful witness and impetus toward conversion.

Please pray for this dear, humble priest, a true reflection of the Fatherhood of Jesus.

“I dearly love each and every one of you,” wrote Father Joseph, “and my one desire for each of you is to see you in Heaven.”

 

 

Franciscans of Life and Project: Joseph

fl logo“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10)

This phrase from scripture inspires the daily life of a new Franciscan community called the Franciscans of Life. Founded in 2009 by Br. Jay Rivera, their mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Life through service to the voiceless, in particular the preborn child and his family, the terminally ill and the elderly, the immigrant poor who feels hopeless, and the person living with disabilities.

They are trying to replicate the brotherhood that grew up around Saint Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century, where there were friars, nuns, married men and women, diocesan priests, widows and single people who followed the Gospel according to the Rule of Penance written by Saint Francis.  Today, their fraternity is comprised of men only.  There are “regular” brothers who live the evangelical counsels in private vows and “secular” brothers who live the evangelical counsels as single or married men.

One of their most unique apostolates is Project: Joseph which provides education, counseling and assistance to fathers in crisis pregnancies. This may sound foreign to ears used to hearing about women and crisis fl3pregnancies. But like the unborn child who has no voice, the father is often left out of the equation when mothers are contemplating “choice.” Their fatherhood, established at conception, is undermined in so many ways.

Project: Joseph began when Brother Jay was praying at an abortion clinic. As he saw the fathers drop off mothers-to-be, he thought: “This is very much like Planned Parenthood and other ‘pro-choice’ organizations.  Pregnancy is a woman’s issue.” Through a dream and another miraculous occurrence, he entrusted the work to Saint Joseph. Today, they serve about 20 expectant fathers per week in the Archdiocese of Miami.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful fraternity, please visit their website.

The Benedictine Monks of Norcia Issue Marian Chant Album

Norcia_Benedicta_Cover_v18_1500px-1024x1024The Benedictine Monks of San Benedetto Monastery in Norcia, Italy, founded by Father Cassian Folsom, OSB, on the site of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica’s birthplace, are issuing their first international recording—a CD album of Marian chant. Called BENEDICTA: Marian Chant from Norcia, the selections focus on the seven mysteries or defining moments of Our Lady’s life.

When you purchase BENEDICTA: Marian Chant from Norcia directly from their web site, a significant amount of the proceeds will go directly to them. The funds will assist with the many needs of their growing community.

EWTN will be airing a special called “Behind the Scenes”, a behind the scenes look (as is evident by the title) at the recording process. Those air times are: June 2, 2015, 6:30pm ET & June 4, 2015, at 10:30pm ET. You can also watch the shows streaming live online at EWTN.com.

Alexian Brothers – New IRL Affiliate Community

Alexian Brothers throughout the ages with St. Alexius
Alexian Brothers throughout the ages with St. Alexius

The Alexian Brothers are one of the newest IRL Affiliates, welcomed into the IRL family in March 2015.

You may think that the Alexian Brothers were founded by St. Alexius who lived in the 5th century. They did adopt this saint who was devoted to the poor and sick as the patron for their first chapel but this was not until around the year 1400. Over time, they became known as the Alexian Brothers. They do not have a founder, per se, rather their congregation evolved and formed because of celibate men who lived in community and tended the sick, fed the hungry and buried the dead. The first written account of their activities stems from the year 1259.

In a time when people were afraid of the sick and dying, their selfless acts of charity were very counter-cultural. With the advent of the Black Plague in the 14th century, they remained true to their calling and stayed by the side of the contagious sick. In 1472, the Alexian Brothers were recognized as a religious community under the rule of St. Augustine.

After the decimation suffered as a result of the French Revolution, only three Brothers were left in Aachen, Germany, site of one of their earliest foundations. In 1854, Brother Dominic Brock rebuilt the decimated community and their numbers grew once again. In 1866, Br. Bonaventure Thelen came to the United States and established the first Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago. Today, the Alexian Brothers are located in Germany, Belgium, England, Ireland, the Philippines, Hungary, and the United States.

Their charism is, in discipleship with Jesus, to reach out to the poor, sick and dying, especially the marginalized and the powerless — “Whatever you do to the least of these brothers of Mine, you do it to Me” (Mt 25:40).

Sisters in Jesus the Lord in Russia

vlad-mission-communities-20For those of you who have read Fr. Walter Ciszek’s books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me, you will know of the struggles of Catholics in Far Eastern Russia. Father Ciszek endured many years of hard labor in prison camps in Siberia. Throughout his ordeal, beautifully and heart-renderingly portrayed in his books, he was always a priest. Nothing was dearer to him than the Russian people.

If you are interested in knowing about the revival of the Church in Eastern Russia, I suggest you receive the newsletter of the Mary Mother of God Mission Society. It documents the work of the Canons Regular of Jesus the Lord in Russia. In 1992, after the Soviet Union ceased to exist, two priests from the Midwest, Fr. Myron Effing, CJD and Fr. Daniel Maurer, CJD, arrived in Vladivostok to help re-establish the Church in eastern Russia. Since then—and with the mission society’s help—they have founded or re-founded 11 Catholic parishes, have developed numerous charitable initiatives, have created a variety of catechetical programs, and done much more.

They have programs for alcoholics, college students, boy scouts, orphans, the elderly. They conduct pro-life work, bring sacred music to this once atheistic nation, rebuild churches, assign guardian angels (“grandmas”) to orphans, and provide food and medical assistance to needy families.

Our Lady of Vladivostok
Our Lady of Vladivostok

They are assisted by the Sisters in Jesus the Lord (Canonissae in Jesu Domino) who work in Russia with women, children and the elderly. They have woman’s support centers in several Russian cities: Lesozavodsk, Vladivostok, Artyom, Arsenyev, Nakhodka and on Russian Island.

The Sisters in Jesus the Lord is a new Public Association of the Faithful in the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri. Their ministries, at home and in Russia, include: pro-life work, music and liturgy, catechesis and evangelization, ministry to the sick and homebound, AVE media, and stewardship of the land.  Each year, they bring a busload of young men and women to the IRL’s National Meeting.

I ordered a cookbook from the Society called Abundant Blessings, a compilation of recipes from the many cultures and countries of their priests, seminarians, sisters and families. Proceeds go towards the seminarians’ education and the women’s centers. God willing, they will also build a Catholic Church in Nakhodka called Our Lady of the Pacific.

 

Franciscan Walk for The Year of Consecrated Life

OSF1  The Year of Consecrated Life is being recognized and celebrated in so many beautiful ways!  In the month of March, one group of 10 Franciscans walked the ancient Via Flaminia from beautiful Assisi to stately Rome in just seven days.  Filled with joy and prayer, these 10 men endeavored to travel from the land of Saint Francis, “a man of peace, a man of prayer”, to the land of Pope Francis and his hallowed halls of Rome.

As Pope Francis attempts to carry on the great traditions of Saint Francis’ devotion to poverty and service to the poor, these Franciscans travelled to honor him in his second year as our Holy Father.  Along the way, the men stayed with religious communities, parishes, and families.  Bowled over by the warmth and hospitality of all they met, they brought from each OSF2stop prayer petitions to lay before the Holy Father.  Collecting grains of incense in these stops as well, they symbolically infused those prayers into the incense which they handed to the Most Reverend J. Rodriguez Carballo along with a letter to be presented to the Pope.  The burning of incense at a future papal celebration will lift all these prayers to heaven.

The Franciscans had many reasons to embark on this physical and spiritual journey this year.  Not only is it the Year of Consecrated Life, it has also been 800 years since the granting of the indulgence of the Portiuncula and 500 years since the events which signaled the division of the Order.  They reportedly enjoyed the experience to the utmost.  As one of them writes; “The beauty of walking together allowed us to get to know each other, to tell our stories, to grow in fraternity, to learn how to help each other and give each other the time needed to find common rhythms.”  Surely the beautiful springtime countryside didn’t hurt!