15 March 2024

Springing into New Life!

Lent comes from the Old English word for “spring season”. Although we do not have the four seasons in Malaysia and Singapore, we know of the astounding beauty of Sister Mother Earth coming alive again in spring with the blossoming of flowers (think Sakura cherry blossoms in Japan) and the eventual fruiting of trees.

We know that preceding this explosive flowering and fruiting is a period of hibernation and apparent lifelessness. As with Sister Mother Earth, so with our souls. We need a period of shedding off everything (Lent) to come to the essence of ourselves, which will result in a greater appreciation of the beauty of life and the mystery of new life (Easter).

Lent is a spiritual detox, a spring cleaning of the soul. What our souls are made of and made for is the life-giving freedom to love. Toxic energy and acting out are the antithesis of this life-giving and loving freedom. The good news is that toxic energy, such as jealousy, deep shame, spitefulness, insecurity and narcissism, can be transformed when we are mindful of our toxic internal programming, and when we intentionally and lovingly adopt a kinder, gentler and more compassionate demeanour, in other words, when we try to be like Christ.

When we enter into our own Lenten deserts intentionally, we reveal our desire to allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate the innermost core of our being and transform us from within, to reveal our true selves more and more. This is like the coming to new life of the springtime, our souls blossoming into our own Easter.

St Francis of Assisi, after his powerful conversion experience in the embracing of the leper, knew that God was leading him gradually into the death of his ego (the False Self), and that is why he did three to five Lents every year. This means he spent between 120 to 200 days a year in solitude and prayer in caves, intentionally entering into the cave of his own heart to discover God within. This is the secret of his powerful preaching (using words when necessary) and many miracles. You can read more about the Five Lents of Francis in the Spirituality page.

Francis emerged from these Lents renewed in the Spirit, and shared this new life of goodness and wholeness with all he came into contact with.

This is my dream for all the friars in the Custody of St Anthony. We resolved at our Chapter in 2022 to implement the Fraternal Life Project (FLP), which is meant to animate our fraternal life through community prayer, recollections, recreation and common ministries, etc. This year, I have strongly encouraged the friars to discern their Personal Life Project (PLP) – to connect with God more intimately (Prayer) so as to know what destructive aspects of our lives need to be transformed (Penance), and thus live our Franciscan fire with THE Essential without anything of our own (Poverty).

Prayer, Penance and Poverty. So thank you our friends and benefactors, for your continued prayers for our intentions and missions. Please be assured of our prayers as you journey through your own Lent into Easter. May you feel the guiding hand of God leading you to greater life-giving freedom to love first God himself, and then all of God’s beloved children.

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