Sunday, October 3, 2010

Let us begin again


St. Bonaventure tells us in his Life of St. Francis, that towards the end of his life, our Holy Father would say to the friars, “Let us begin again, brothers. For up till now we have done little or nothing.” What a wonderful and renewing phrase that is, “Let us begin again.” To me, it speaks of renewal; it speaks of resurrection; it speaks of new beginnings and a newness of life. And, I think it is one of the most powerful statements St. Francis gives us – a reminder that we are part and parcel of the remarkable cycle of renewal that our God offers us; that the Paschal Mystery is not something we observe from the outside, but something we participate in from within. That today, and every day, we continually have that opportunity before us to begin again.

In a simple way, I think of my own experience just a year ago. As you know, I also had the great honor of sharing some thoughts with all of you for the Transitus last year. I was barely a few months into my new ministry as Vocation Director; and I asked you dear sisters, knowing how powerful are the prayers of Holy Women, to please make, as part of your daily prayers, some petitions for my ministry and for vocations to our Province of the Immaculate Conception. And, now, just a year later we are preparing to receive six men into our formation program later this week – three of whom are here tonight. Those are some powerful prayers!! And, I ask you once again to keep them coming! “Let us begin again.”

You know, in one way, the celebration of the Transitus of St. Francis can seem a bit odd from the outside. With painstaking detail, we recall the death of St. Francis; we remember each of the things he did as he approached his final breath. There can be a morbidity to the celebration – except for that refrain that keeps coming back to us, “Let us begin again.” We know that this celebration is not named the Death of St. Francis or the Demise of St. Francis or even the Final Moments – rather, it is a night we call Transitus or passing or transition. It is a celebration not about an ending, but about a movement from the pale existence we enjoy here on earth to the remarkable existence of eternity, the Beatific Vision, the Communion of Saints – the incredible wonder that it is to dwell in God’s presence forever.

St. Therese of Lisieux, who’s memorial we celebrated last week said, “I want to spend my Heaven doing good on earth.” Even for St. Francis, he has “begun again”; his work, his life was not completed when he passed from here to Heaven – his great work had only just begun; as now he intercedes for us in the presence of our Almighty God.

As we commemorate and recall our Holy Father’s passing, we are also given an invitation to begin again ourselves. And we all know, I think, the universal call to renewal, to new beginnings, is something that we all crave. As we gather on this holy night, we are invited to reflect in our hearts about what needs to be new in our own lives. Perhaps we need a newness of vigor in our life of prayer, a renewal of charity and compassion in our lives with one another. Perhaps we need a fresh start in our community life, in our family life. Perhaps we need a renewal in our Provinces, convents, friaries and homes. To the areas of our life that are being called into transitus, St. Francis says, “Let us begin again.”

As we place St. Francis once again in the tomb in the quiet and darkness of this night, let us place there with him all that needs resurrection in our world, so that tomorrow as we greet the risen Francis on his Feast, sainted in Heaven with the Lord, we can also greet newness in our own lives.

Transitus is all about transition. Last year we celebrated the 8th Centenary of the Franciscan way of life and, in renewal, embarked upon a new era for the sons and daughters of Francis and Clare. This year, our Province celebrates its 100th anniversary. We too recall past glories and look forward with a renewed hope. These young men with us tonight transition from the life they have known in the world and with excitement look forward to the religious life of the friars.

Let us begin again and embrace anew the words of Francis who said in his Letter to the Entire Order, “Listen, sons of the Lord and my brothers, pay attention to my words. Incline the ear of your heart and obey the voice of the Son of God. Observe His commands with your whole heart and fulfill His counsels with a perfect mind. Give praise to Him because He is good; exalt Him by your deeds; for this reason He has sent you into the whole world: that you may bear witness to His voice in word and deed and bring everyone to know that there is no one who is all-powerful except Him.”

My friends, what do you need to place in the tomb this night? On His way to the cross, Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new.” What shall our Lord make new for you? My friends, let us begin again, through the intercession of our Holy Father Francis, to do what is ours to do.

May the Lord give you peace.

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