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franciscan - September 2001

© The Society of Saint Francis, 2001

Community Routes

New Noviciate

David Francis SSF, the brothers’ Novice Guardian, writes from Glasshampton:

Since 1947, when SSF first took up residence Glasshampton Monastery, novice brothers have spent part of their noviciate here. For years, this was seen as a time of strict enclosure when novices ‘were not allowed to cross tarmac’ for the duration of their stay. Many older brothers, and some not so old, tell tales of how they ‘endured’ their time at Glasshampton; and for those approaching enclosure, there was often a sense of simply having to grin and bear it.

This attitude was felt by many, especially those who had enjoyed and valued their time here, to be too negative and a failure to recognise that a contemplative dimension is integral to the Franciscan life. Two years ago, partly as a response to this and partly for pragmatic reasons (very Anglican!) we decided to introduce men to our life by beginning their formation at Glasshampton. They therefore now spend the three months of their postulancy and the first nine months of their noviciate here. We have dropped the term ‘enclosure’ and now talk of a period ‘without outside engagements or external distractions’, as in The Principles.

Beginning at Glasshampton allows men to learn what it means for them to be a friar in a fairly safe and private environment; it allows them to grow in their relationship with God and in fraternity; and they can begin to equip themselves with theological and communication skills before setting out on their ministry.

The second group of novices under the new system have now almost completed their time here and for most of them it has been a positive experience. Please pray for them as the move on to other houses; and pray also for the new postulants who hope to begin at Glasshampton in October.

The Flute Player’s Lips

Earlier this year, Bernard SSF led the annual Westminster Abbey Quiet Day of Prayer using the teasing title ‘Sharing the secrets of the flute-player’s lips with Saint Francis’. The title was based on the words of Rumi, a Sufi mystic, ‘How long are you going to worry about what has already happened and can’t be changed, and what has yet to come that can’t be controlled? You are all knotted up like an old reed, unfit to share the secrets of the flute player’s lips’.

In the silence that followed the first address, participants were invited to ponder Francis: in his solitude listening to God in the natural world and in the Scriptures (eg Luke 10.38-42 & 12.22-32, Ephesians 1.1-14, Philippians 3.7-16), and in his experience with the leper. The second address referred to Francis, before the cross in San Damiano, receiving the words ‘Francis rebuild my church’ and, later in life, encountering the Sultan. In its theme of reflecting upon the church of the future, this address drew heavily on William Johnston’s latest book Arise My Love, which contemplates the marriage of Eastern and Western spiritualities. Could Christ be thought of as the divine flute player, with the breath of the Holy Spirit? After the silence, the day concluded with Choral Evensong. Many friends of SSF, together with regular Abbey participants, made up the congregation of around six hundred.

Poor Clares return to Assisi

Following the earthquake of 27 September 1997, the community of Poor Clares of the convent of St Quirico was accommodated in the friary of the Friars Minor of Amelia. The work of reconstruction of the convent went on until 20 December 2000, the day on which the community made their return. At present, the community consists of twenty-seven Poor Clares.

The forty-seven Poor Clares of the Proto-convent, in the Square of St Clare, also returned on 20 December, despite work still going on. Saint Clare, however, was never left alone. A small community of nuns lived in temporary accommodation in the garden of the convent, overseeing the work of reconstruction and restoration of the convent and the Basilica.

The German Capuchin Poor Clares of the Holy Cross convent, who lived in the small wooden houses in the garden, have re-entered their convent. Meanwhile, the Colettine Poor Clares of Borgo San Pietro still await the conclusion of restoration that is expected to last another six months.

The Splendour of Hawkstone

Paschal SSF describes his recent three-month sabbatical:

‘Set in the plains of north Shropshire there is a hidden masterpiece of unusual splendour’, writes Father Denis McBride, the superior of Hawkstone Hall, a beautiful, sixteenth-century, classical, stately house, set in exquisite, formal gardens and surrounded by eighty-five acres of gentle farmland.

In 1926, the Redemptorists bought the Hall as a seminary, extending it to accommodate seventy students. However, when the students were moved to Canterbury in 1973, the Order transformed the Hall into an international pastoral and study centre which today offers three-month ‘Renewal Courses’. The resident Redemptorist community, together with other Religious and Lay people, provide a relaxing setting where Christians who have served the church in ministry, can be renewed in body, mind and spirit for service in the twenty-first century.

It was a profound experience to share in such a ‘Renewal Course’ earlier this year. I was so impressed by the reverence and care that all the participants received from the staff. A full programme of lectures, workshops and group activities which focused on scripture, theology, ethics, spirituality and human development followed, but there was also opportunity to learn from the international experience of other Religious.

As the only Anglican Religious at Hawkstone, it was a privilege to imbibe the joyful dedication of so many Roman Catholic priests and nuns. Their natural love for Christ and his world, expressed each day through the Mass, the Divine Office and in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament challenged me in my gospel response to God.

But the purpose of Hawkstone is not to give Religious a sort of ecclesiastical ‘12,000-mile service’, rather it is to provide a caring and respectful environment where people can rediscover and renew their loving attachment to Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly, the presence of Jesus and his values touched me afresh in my sabbatical term at Hawkstone, and this, of course, is the ‘splendour’ that pervades this special place.

Ten Years of Prayer

On 30 April, one thousand people met in Saint Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast. They were there, along with the heads of the four major religious groups in Northern Ireland, to commemorate ten years of prayers for peace, reconciliation, renewal and the unity of Christians. These daily prayers for peace, maintained since 1991 by David Jardine SSF and an inter-denominational group, had originally started as only ten minutes during lunch-time. But in the crucial period between September 1997 and May 1998 this had risen to seven hours daily, and now remains at six hours daily. Different communities lead each day; David remains at its heart. A Methodist Chaplain commented: ‘When the history of the peace process is written up, Brother David Jardine’s name will surely feature. I can’t think of any Christian of any persuasion who would not co-operate with anything David asked him to do’. David’s comment was ‘We’ll not be out of business for a while yet: sin is not out of fashion’.

Assisi: a heritage for humanity

UNESCO has placed Assisi on the list of World Heritage sites on the basis of the following criteria:
- the most important masterpieces of art, by such artists as Cimabue, Simone Martini and Giotto, and the architectural works such as the Basilica of Saint Francis, have made Assisi a model and a fundamental point of reference for the history of European art, inspired by the innovative, spiritual and religious movement of the Franciscans;
- the spread of the artistic and spiritual message of the Order of Franciscans has contributed in a significant way to the development of art and architecture in the world;
- Assisi represents a unique example of continuity of a city-sanctuary in its natural environment, from its Umbrian-Roman and medieval origins right down to the present day, represented in the cultural landscape, the religious whole, the communications systems and the traditional use of the land;
- the Basilica of Saint Francis is an example of a style of architectural whole that has influenced in a significant way the develop-ment of art and architecture;
- Assisi, the place of birth of Saint Francis, has been closely associated with the spread of the Franciscan movement in the world since the middle ages, sending out a universal message of peace and tolerance, even in regard to other religions and faiths.

Elizabeth Ann CSF, RIP

Elizabeth Ann, CSF, died on the Saturday after Easter, 21 April, 2001, after a ten-year battle with cancer. Her life was celebrated at a Eucharist at her parish church, Saint Aidan's, in San Francisco, and she was buried at Little Portion Friary in New York.

Elizabeth Ann came to CSF in 1986 as a 'late vocation', after 50 years of life which included a career as a teacher and a priest's wife. She was filled with the joy of life and threw herself enthusiastically into life as a CSF Sister. She quickly developed ministries: beginning an after school tutoring programme for Spanish-speaking immigrant children from Latin America; working with the poor and homeless at soup kitchens; doing hospital chaplaincy and training student deacons in hospital ministry; working in programmes of spiritual renewal for women and for prison inmates and their families; working for peace and justice through serving on Diocesan Peace and Justice and Hunger Commissions and active involvement in the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. She also served CSF as Novice Guardian.

Her life in CSF can best be summed up in her own words, words she wrote when she requested to make her First Profession of vows in CSF in 1988:

'I realize more and more that this process of being a Sister is a life-long commitment to spiritual growth and change. In a world that seems to be living "perfectly well" without God, it is good to be part of a community that is attempting to live out a life of prayer, a life of study, and a life of work side by side. I can say with my life that God matters, people matter, and how I spend myself matters ...'

Round up

Christine James is now Provincial Bursar for CSF.
Andrew Philip returned to the ANZ Province in July; Anselm moved to Birmingham in April; Athanasius Fiafu returned to the Solomon Islands in June; Damian and Jonathan moved to Hilfield in July; Elizabeth and Jannafer moved to Compton Durville in July; Gregory moved to Glasshampton in June; Hugh has been transferred to the European Province and is now living at Hilfield; Judith Ann moved to Birmingham in July.
Beverley made her profession in life vows at Compton Durville on 11 May; Christine Julian OSC made her profession in life vows at Freeland on 20 April; Graham was professed in first vows at Brisbane on 14 July; Kevin expects to make his profession in life vows at Hilfield on 8 September.
Nan has been granted Leave of Absence.
David Alban and Stephen have withdrawn from the noviciate.
Revd Bertie Wells, formerly Brother Oswald, and Guardian of Hilfield Friary from 1959 to 1966, died on 8 March, aged eighty-two years. We remember his wife Rosemary and their family.
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CSF European Province First Order Sisters: Registered Charity Number 286615
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