San Damiano - Related Content

Franciscan family reunions

Thursday, June 30th 2016 10:24 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

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Statue of St. Francis overlooking San Damiano in Assisi, Italy

St. Francis of Assisi knew it was important for his brothers to routinely come together. He called these gatherings Chapter of Mats, because the brothers would literally bring mats to sleep on while they camped at San Damiano. San Damiano, a church in Assisi, Italy, was the first home of the Franciscan Order. It’s where Francis heard the call from God to “rebuild my church.”

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San Damiano courtyard

Today, summer is a time when many people pack suitcases and travel to family reunions. Some unite immediate families—those we know well—and others are big extended-family events where nametags are necessary to identify aunts, uncles and cousins as members of the family. In the past 10 days I have had the opportunity to attend gatherings that identify as both.

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Sisters by birth and vows of FSPA, Sisters Carolyn and Roselyn Heil, rejoice together during Community Days.

Inspired by the wisdom of St. Francis of Assisi, FSPAs from across the globe gathered at St. Rose Convent, our motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for what we call Community Days. It was a time of inspiration as we shared stories of the people and places we serve, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, discussed the ongoing call of ministry and celebrated each individual’s gifts as we were sent forth into mission. Spending time with one another strengthens our commitment to religious life and reminds us of the call we have each received from God to continue in the Franciscan tradition to rebuild the church today.

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FSPA gathered for Community Days in St. Rose Convent's Mary of the Angels Chapel (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)

Sent forth in my own mission of vocations, of sharing the invitation to religious life with FSPA, I then attended a gathering of the Franciscan Federation. The Franciscan Federation is a larger group of the Franciscan family—religious brothers and sisters who follow the Third Order Rule of St. Francis. Members of the organization that promotes “the exploration and study of Franciscan Evangelical Life and its implications for these ties and for the world” come from different Franciscan religious congregations, span the United States, serve diverse ministries, and unite in a celebration much like an extended family reunion.

We all share the same tradition and the name Franciscan but each community looks a bit different. The nametags we wear and the stories we tell of our founders help us know what part of the family we come from. Gathered around tables were sisters and brothers, each bringing a depth of lived experience to the conversations. The Federation is celebrating 50 years of existence, born from a dream of collaboration. Today the organization continues to grapple with the challenges and gifts of collaborating across congregations, ideologies and busy calendars in a world that continues to grow in diversity. The work of the Gospel always calls for innovation to meet the needs of the times we live in and the coming together of family to achieve it.

As you explore your own discernment, consider the distinctive family traits of each community: Franciscans are known as peacemakers, Dominicans as preachers, Benedictines as hospitality givers. Is it in your nature to exude peace? Are you called to join a family of Franciscans working in service of the Gospel with joyful hearts, gathering regularly to work together on important needs and seeing all of creation as brothers and sisters?

St. Clare of Assisi: model, mentor, friend

Thursday, August 18th 2016 10:17 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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FSPA celebrate St. Clare in Mary of the Angels Chapel (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)

Recently FSPA, along with the global Catholic church, celebrated the Feast of St. Clare of Assisi who, after more than 800 years, continues to be a model for all. St. Clare's gentle, loving spirit and care still flow from her deep, contemplative life of prayer. She was a woman of integrity and courage who did not give up when obstacles appeared in her path. She listened in discernment for the voice of God in her heart to provide direction for action in her life. She conversed with royalty, dialogued with bishops and the pope, and protected her sisters when invaders threatened San Damiano. She relied on God in every moment.

Any one of these events would be remarkable for most people to experience and yet St. Clare moved always with grace and humility. Her greatest desire was to gaze on the face of her beloved whether in prayer before the San Damiano Cross or in the faces of the men, women and children who came to her doors for healing of their bodies and spirits. St. Clare of Assisi is a phenomenal model, mentor and friend--a woman who said “yes” to God without contingency. She lived an incredible life and encourages those of us living today to do the same.


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The presence of St. Clare illuminated the vigil (photo by Sister Nina Shephard)

How are the lessons St. Clare teaches present in your discernment?

What could happen if, like Clare, you lived your life steeped in prayer?  

Listening, exploring and discerning like Francis

Friday, October 4th 2019 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

"God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration ..."

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Icon of St. Francis of Assisi by Sister Maryam Gossling

Today’s Gospel acclamation, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart,” is timely as we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. 

If you are familiar with the life of St. Francis of Assisi, you may recall that while he was out one day, roaming the countryside near Assisi, Italy, he stopped at a church to pray. Praying before the San Damiano Cross in a deteriorating church — Portiuncula — Francis heard God say to him “rebuild my church ...” 

After hearing these words, Francis had to decide whether or not he was going to listen to the request. It took him a while to figure out what exactly those powerful words meant. He didn’t understand what God was asking of him. Thinking it was a literal task, he gathered stones to rebuild by hand the crumbling chapel. In time, Francis realized the call was much deeper. His search for clarity led to conversations with his family, friends, the bishop, the pope, the local mayor, and many others. Men saw his joy and flocked to join his way of life, a pathway that lead to the establishment of a new religious community with a new rule of life approved by the pope. It all began with a few words he heard in prayer, his inclination to trust God and to begin searching. Francis was by no means perfect: he made mistakes and learned throughout his life journey. Conversion is one of the values of Franciscan tradition!

Like Francis, you may receive inspiration or a call from God in prayer. Moving from the idea of discernment to actually living into it requires motivation to discover its true meaning. For example, feeling called to religious life offers much to explore throughout religious communities: evangelical, apostolic or monastic orders, Franciscan, Dominican, Benedictine spirituality (among others), geographical locations and ministerial opportunities. Simultaneously delving into your own gifts and talents helps to discover where you feel a connection. The opinions of family and friends also provide fodder for reflection. Each new discovery leads to next steps and bigger questions. 

No matter where discernment takes you, carry today’s Gospel acclamation, Psalm 95:8, as you journey forth: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart.” God will be with you each step of the journey to guide, to listen and to offer continual inspiration, no matter where the exploration leads.  

Are you willing to listen and explore?

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Mary, Clare, a novice and an associate: discerning pathways to God

Thursday, August 16th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This time in August marks the celebration of two wonderful and inspirational women of faith: Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi. From this point in history, we can trace the pathways from each woman’s initial yes to the culmination of their lives, mapping what is possible with God. 

I wonder what their first days were like, after saying yes to God. When the angel left Mary and the Holy Spirit’s visit concluded, the reality of pregnancy (and not by her betrothed, Joseph) came to be. It was a yes that, at the time, was messy at best. 

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Mary of Nazareth gazes down over all from the domed ceiling in Mary of the Angels Chapel. (Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA)

What were Clare’s thoughts after escaping her family home in the dark of night, only to learn that traveling the road she envisioned to religious life would take some time? Did she hold her breath as she waited for the convent at San Damiano to be prepared? Since cloister was required for all women religious at that time, barring her from serving alongside her inspiration, St. Francis, did she even for a moment lose faith? 

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St. Clare of Assisi (Image from the Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi, Italy)

Discernment calls for a yes followed by action. The journey requires stepping forward, bravely beginning new experiences without the security of GPS or traveler’s insurance. Homelands, friends, jobs and routines of life are turned upside down as a new adventure — perhaps one with uncertainty — beckons. 

Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi are mentors and companions for two women who in the last few weeks have put their yes to God in motion. One as an associate and the other as a novice, they are both beginning the journey of incorporation with FSPA. As individuals, their paths are uncharted territory — where God will lead them is yet to be revealed. They, like Mary and Clare, will be invited to trust God and community and to share their gifts and talents as the way forward is co-created.  

As you consider Mary and St. Clare and two women who today are entering the next passageway of discernment, ask yourself:

-    Where do these pioneers, blazing their own paths to religious life, inspire me to go?
 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.


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