Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Vocation as a call to mercy

The "official" Year of Mercy will soon come to an end. However, rather than seeing it as an end maybe we have the opportunity to see it as a refresher, a reminder and a signpost for a life of mercy.

Over the course of the year, Pope Francis has reminded us time and again of our call to be witnesses and apostles of mercy in the world. He has called us to seek out those who need mercy the most and to be mercy for them. He has called us to look deeply at how we live out our faith; as comfortable catholics observing from a safe distance? or as people enlivened by the Good News of Jesus Christ that seek to be the eyes, ears, hands and feet of mercy to others? He has called on us to use our talents, resources and belief to make a tangible, and merciful, differnce in our world; our common home. And he has called us to remember that it is God's Mercy that we bring, not our own.

If we are to take all this seriously then we need to be people engaged in a process of change that leads us into an ever deepening relationship with God, others, ourselves and all of creation. At first sight this call may seem too difficult for us however it is our call if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

Each of us has the opportunity to respond to this call in our own way. We are not asked to be someone else but rather more fully ourselves. If we are married, we live out our Vocation of Mercy in and through this vocation. If we are single, we bring our Vocation of Mercy with us wherever we go and to whomever we meet. If we are religious or priests, then our call is to live our congregational vocation fully so as to be witnesses to the God whose name IS mercy.

One of the cards I received for my ordination last June had a simple yet striking message written on it, it read 'always be a man of mercy: be kind to people and try to love them as Christ loves them'. I often return to it to get me back on track when I get caught up in the busyness of daily life and ministry. It acts as an anchor point and a harbour for self reflection: A refresher, a signpost and a reminder. 

Every person has the vocation to be a person of mercy and to try to love others as Jesus loves them. To help us navigate this it may be important to ask ourselves how does he love us? How do I love others? What do I need to do to try to align these two expressions of love? In what ways can I be mercy?

It's my hope and prayer that the seeds sewn over this year will bear abundant fruit. Of course, we need to water, nourish and tend to them by our prayer, good intentions and actions. However, we are not alone; we're never alone.

As we approach Advent we can be reassured by the words of the Angel: 'Emmanuel'... God is with us!

Br Martin OFM Cap
Vocations Promoter for the Irish Capuchin Province

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Opening the Door of Mercy: The Capuchin ministry of welcome

The monotony of waiting to collect someone from the airport was broken by whoops of joy as 'Martha and the Gang' (according to the 6 foot florescent banner) arrived home. Long before their arrival that banner, and others like it, had brightened the eyes and widened the smiles of the travellers who walked through the doors. They knew they were home. It may not have been a welcome specifically coloured in and shimmering just for them, however it was a well received welcome none the less.

We all need to be welcomed and we all need to feel like we belong. One of the oldest Capuchin ministries was that of 'Doorkeeper'. The Doorkeeper, most often a Friar not ordained to sacramental ministry, was more than just someone who opened the door. They were the face of welcome and mercy to all who called to the Friary seeking help, consolation and support. Not alone where they the 'face of the Capuchins' to those who called but also, and more importantly, they were the 'face of Christ'. They were holy men and many of our Capuchin Saints and Blesseds were Doorkeepers.

As Capuchin Friars, regardless of whether we are ordained or not, we are called to be Doorkeepers. We are called to be men of welcome, mercy, compassion and consolation. We are called to both open doors for others and also to help hold doors open for those struggling to hold them open by themselves. As Capuchin Franciscan Friars we are called to be ministers of the Lord's welcome; ministers of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

Today our society often slams doors shut and refuses a welcome. Not us. Our welcome is an extension of Christ's welcome. It's the welcome of the forgiving father to the prodigal son and the welcome of Christ to the repentant thief. It's expressed as a compassionate and non-judgemental welcome to the lonely, poor, isolated, sick and homeless. It's God's welcome, we merely have the privilege of sharing it.
Br Martin OFM Cap
(Vocation Promoter)

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Saint Clare of Assisi

Tired of all the Bad News
Fr. Bryan Shortall ofm.capuchin
Thursday, 11 August 2016
St. Clare of Assisi...

Chiara Offreduccio was born into a noble family in Assisi on July 16th 1194. Her father was Favarone Sciffi, Count of Sasso-Rosso and her mother was Ortolana. 

From a young age it was assumed that Clare was to marry in line with family tradition but at 18 years old she heard Francis of Assisi preaching and asked him could she follow him and live after the manner of the gospel. In March 1212 Francis received her into the order and placed her into the care of the Benedictine nuns of San Paolo. Her father made great efforts to get her out of the cloister and leave the order. Later she moved into a small church at San Damiano where she and her sisters stayed.  They soon became known as the Poor Ladies of San Damiano and they lived a life of poverty and enclosure according to a rule given them by St. Francis of Assisi. This vow of poverty was something that was for Clare non-negotiable. It was called the ‘Privilegium Pauperitatis’ which meant that for the Poor Ladies, they guarded this grace to live in absolute poverty and not having to take possessions.

As a way of guarding the life they had chosen, a Roman Cardinal, Hugolino, was appointed ‘protector’ of the order. He later became Pope Gregory IX. As pope, he visited the Poor Ladies and was concerned about living such a hard and austere life and suggested relaxing the vow to live this privilege of poverty. Clare was a tough lady and was having none of it. She told the pope “I wish to be absolved from my sins, but not from the obligation of following Christ.” For her and her sisters, poverty was just that, a privilege, which well lived, freed them from distractions in order to focus on following Jesus Christ.

Francis of Assisi guided the order until he died in 1226 and after his death, Clare became abbess of San Damiano. She took Francis’ spirit as a good benchmark for the living of the religious life with her sisters in poverty and enclosure and she fought off any attempt by church leaders to dispense her and the sisters from it. In 1224 the army of Frederick II came to plunder Assisi and the story goes that Clare came out of the enclosure and faced the Emperor down by holding the Monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament in her hands. The sight of this tenacious woman standing up to the emperor was enough to scare him so much that the army fled – terrified without harming anyone in the city.
On August 9th 1253, Pope Innocent IV, in a papal Bull, a document given to Clare called ‘Solet Annuere’ confirmed that her rule would serve as the governing rule for the Poor Ladies way of life. Never would anyone in the future be in danger of watering down the rule of the Poor Clares. Clare died two days later on August 11th, she was 59 years old. She was canonized Saint on September 26th 1255.

In 1958 Pope Pius XII named St. Clare the patron of television.
Brother Bryan Shortall OFM Cap.