Inspired by the Holy Spirit

Inspired by the Holy Spirit

The celebration of the Easter season is a time when we reflect on the mystery of Jesus’ supreme sacrifice. He gave his life to win us our salvation. The empty tomb fulfils his mission on earth. What joy we all experience in the knowledge that we have been saved and, as faithful disciples, will one day share in his resurrection!

The Easter season concludes on the feast of Pentecost, often referred to as the birthday of the church. From the Gospels we know that after a time of despair and fear, the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit of God, left the security of their hidden life to courageously proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and the teachings that he had shared with them.

They faced much opposition from the established religious leaders but, accepting their mission to preach Christ Crucified, they were not deterred.

Over countless generations, men and women have heard the message of Christ anew, and like the early disciples have been compelled to preach the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the earth.

The Holy Spirit has inspired many Franciscan Friars to go beyond the security of their homelands to live and preach the Gospel as instructed by our Holy Father St Francis.

The feast of Pentecost has special significance for my province as it is under the patronage of the Holy Spirit. Franciscan Friars from Ireland established a community in Sydney in 1879. Then in 1970, the Australian friars assumed responsibility for the mission in Singapore. As more young men joined, it was declared a dependant custody of the Province of the Holy Spirit. It was my privilege to serve as the first Custos.

On 25 April, we celebrated the establishment of the Custody of St Anthony as an autonomous entity in the Order of Friars Minor. It was a momentous moment in the life of the friars in Singapore and Malaysia and for the entire Order.

The friars at the Thanksgiving Mass in commemoration of the establishment of the
Custody of St Anthony as an autonomous entity in the Order of Friars Minor.

We give thanks to God for the courage of our brothers from Singapore and Malaysia and pray that they will, by their faithful living of the Gospel life, inspire others to join in the mission of proclaiming the Gospel, just as the early Franciscans did, just as the first disciples did – free from all fear and despair, but full of trust and faith in the Paschal Mystery of Salvation.

May we always be inspired by Pentecost and marvel in the Spirit’s action in proclaiming the story of our Salvation. May we always be willing to accept our mission to proclaim the Risen Lord. May the Holy Spirit of God be alive and active in all we do.

Come Holy Spirit,

fill the hearts of your faithful

and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

And you will renew

the face of the earth.

Friar Phillip Miscamble

OFM Minister Provincial,

Province of the Holy Spirit (Australia)

Brother Francis and Brother Rabbit

Brother Francis and Brother Rabbit

In the first official biography of St Francis of Assisi, the author Thomas of Celano, one of the Saint’s first companions, wrote: 

“Once while he (Francis) was staying near the town of Greccio, a certain brother brought him a live rabbit caught in a trap. Seeing it, the most blessed man was moved with tenderness. ‘Brother rabbit,’ he said, ‘Come to me. Why did you let yourself get caught?’ As soon as the brother holding it let go, the rabbit, without any prompting, took shelter with the most holy man, as in a most secure place, resting in his bosom. After it had rested there for a little while, the holy father, caressing it with motherly affection, let it go, so that now free it would return to the woods. As often as it was put on the ground, it rushed back to the holy man’s lap, so he told the brothers to carry it away to the nearby forest. Something similar happened with another little rabbit, a wild one, when he was on the island in the Lake of Perugia.”

Life of St Francis, Chapter XXI

There are numerous stories of how Francis extended the same loving care towards birds, fish and even earthworms, and how he praised the Creator through all created things. It is no wonder that Pope John Paul II named Francis of Assisi the Patron Saint of Ecology on 29 November 1979. 

The story of Francis and the rabbit gives us an example of how we can live the reality of fraternity with every person and all creatures: 

1. Be moved with tenderness: The brother who brought the rabbit saw the creature as food. Francis saw it not as a thing, but as a brother. 

2. Welcome others into your life: We live in a world of fear, and people try to protect themselves because they have been hurt and threatened in many ways. Francis was so secure in himself and so welcoming in his love for all, that the rabbit instinctively knew it could run to him and find refuge. 

3. Do not cling to anything or anyone: The rabbit wanted to stay with Francis, and Francis might have been tempted to keep the rabbit as a pet. But he knew that wild rabbits are meant to be free, and he found his own freedom in letting go. 

4. Don’t stop at one act of generosity: As Thomas of Celano wrote, “A similar thing happened with another little rabbit, a wild one, when he was on the island in the Lake of Perugia.” 

Young Adults on an Emmaus Journey

Young Adults on an Emmaus Journey

The Franciscan Friars have been organising pilgrimages designed specifically for young adults since 2019. In fact, Friar John Paul Tan led a group of young adults, aged 18 to 35 years, on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land last December.

An objective of these pilgrimages is to help young adults make sense of what they have learned and heard – in their catechism classes and during the pilgrimage – and lead them to an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.

As Yossi, our archaeologist tour guide in the Holy Land, is fond of saying, the distance between the human mind and the heart is about a foot but it can be the longest journey. By that he means that the historical, religious and cultural significance of the places we visit could remain at the head level without reaching the heart to make a difference at the faith level.

One of the places on the pilgrimage is the Benedictine Monastery of St Mary and the Church of the Resurrection which was built by the Crusaders. Located in the Arab village of Abu Gosh, this church commemorates the event in Luke 24:13-35 when Jesus appeared to two disciples on their way to Emmaus. They had become disillusioned after the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus taught the disciples as they walked, about Moses and the prophets and about himself being the fulfilment of the scriptures. But it was not until the “breaking of bread” that the disciples encountered Jesus in person and recognised him. “Were not our hearts burning …,” they said. It was the moment when the mind met the heart!

“During the pilgrimages, our pilgrims are invited to make their own Emmaus journey; to allow the knowledge that they have gained to move their hearts,” said Friar John Paul Tan.

“Our young pilgrims have their lives ahead of them. Many obstacles and hurdles, disappointments and disillusions will block the journey from the head to the heart. It is our hope that these pilgrimages will give young adults the impetus to discover Jesus more in the scriptures, and reignite their faith in the person of Jesus who continues to be present at the Breaking of the Word and at the Breaking of Bread.”

Amen, Lord Jesus: Come Soon!

Amen, Lord Jesus: Come Soon!

An important part of our preparation for Christmas is the use of special antiphons from 17 to 23 December. They are called “O Antiphons” because each Latin text begins with a long beautiful chant expressing the longing of the Church for the coming of the Lord. Many are familiar with the texts because they provide the verses to the familiar Advent song: O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

Let us reflect on a few of these O Antiphons.

O Wisdom of our God most high, guiding creation with power and love: COME and teach us to walk in the paths of knowledge! 

The early Church saw Christ as the Wisdom of God and recognised Christ’s presence in the creating activity of God. The Church prays that we may learn to live by the very same Wisdom of God. We have gone our own way long enough, and our “wisdom” has produced nothing but disaster. Call us back, prays the Church, to the path which leads to glory.

O radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice: COME and shine on those lost in the darkness of death! 

People looked to the East where the sun came up and saw the hope of a new Dawn as a vision of the power of God. Everyone has known what it is to live in the hopelessness of darkness and shadows. Now a new light dispels the darkness. The Church prays that this light, which the darkness cannot overcome, will enlighten all people and cast away the darkness which creeps in even now.

O King of all nations, source of your Church’s unity and faith: COME and save humanity, your own creation! 

Isaiah the prophet offered a vision of all people streaming to God’s holy mountain, and all people united in common bond in the true God. Now, prays the Church, let the unity which was once accomplished be not just a goal, but a way of life.

O Emmanuel, God’s presence among us, our King, our Judge: COME and save us, Lord our God! 

A young maiden would be with child and bear a son and he would be called Emmanuel (God-with- us). Our ancestors saw the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. They were certain that Christ is among us! The Church prays that we can be assured of what Christ has accomplished and recognise that he is still saving and creating us to this very day.

What do we hope and dream for? Do we hope and dream in the Lord? What difference will Christmas make this year?

Friar Russell Becker OFM

The Love of the Crucified Christ for Francis

The Love of the Crucified Christ for Francis

It may seem contradictory that receiving the gift of the stigmata would be called love. After all, receiving the stigmata would mean enduring the painful wounds that Christ Himself experienced when He suffered His passion and death. How then can it be called love and a gift?

From the moment Adam and Eve fell, God has been calling us back to Him. In Jesus Christ, the Father’s loving face was revealed to us, enabling us to be adopted as God’s beloved children.

When Christ went through His passion and death, He held nothing back from us. Christ yearned to be united with us in all ways, so He emptied Himself to be born a man and even more, to die on the Cross.

So, we believe sin, evil and death no longer have power over us. God has overcome them for us. Therefore, the mystery of the Cross and the wounds of Christ are the “Gift of Love” for our humanity and salvation.

As we undergo our trials in life, we ought to reunite with Christ. We do not need to fear the crosses in our lives because Christ carries them with us. This closeness to Jesus is His gift of love and it assures us of victory.

In Francis, God found someone who loved Him for Himself. In Francis, God found someone who knew what it meant to love truly. In Francis, we have an example of what it means to be a Christian. Therefore, it has pleased God to bestow upon Francis the “Wounds of His love”.

May we follow the example of Francis and may our hearts burn with love for Christ and His people.

The Spirituality of Itinerancy

The Spirituality of Itinerancy

The word itinerant comes from the Latin word ‘iter’ which means “way” or “journey”. Such is the life of a friar. The ‘iter’ of a friar involves continuous conversion as he experiences daily a personal encounter with the Lord in everyone and in everything, and this transforms his whole life gradually.

In 1205, while wandering along the cliff of Mount Subasio, Francis stopped at the dilapidated Chapel of San Damiano where he knelt and prayed. The Lord was with him for from the cross, Jesus spoke to Francis, “Francis, repair my church, which as you see is falling into ruins.”

The San Damiano Cross that spoke to Francis.

Francis’ life was changed by this encounter with the Lord. He thought that Jesus wanted him to repair the chapel and he hurried to collect bricks and stones. People thought Francis had gone crazy but their words did not dampen his joy and enthusiasm.

Then, in a church on the feast of Saint Matthias, he had a new revelation on hearing the reading from the Gospel of Matthew: “And going, preach, saying ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’ is at hand. Freely have you received, freely give. Take neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses … nor two tunics nor shoes nor a staff … Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves …”. The words cut into his soul like a knife and, taking the words literally, he began the life of an itinerant. This was the beginning of the spirituality of itinerancy.

It dawned on Francis that “repair my church” referred to the people of God whose faith had deteriorated, and Christ had asked him to reinvigorate their faith.

Embracing his mission wholeheartedly, he cast off his shoes, staff and leathern girdle, keeping only his rough woollen tunic, which he tied about him with a rope. This became the habit he gave his friars the following year. The next morning, he went to Assisi and, with moving warmth and sincerity, began to speak to everyone he met about the shortness of life, the need for repentance, and the love of God. His salutation to those he passed on the road was “Our Lord give you peace!”

Francis became an itinerant preacher. Determined to spread the Good News, he moved from place to place zealously proclaiming Jesus and his Gospel, and calling the people to repentance.

Following Christ in the way of Francis, the ‘iter’ of the Friars Minor means that the friars strive to preach the Gospel of the Lord with their lives and with words (if necessary), and they too carry peace in their hearts and offer it to everyone they meet.