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FEAST OF ST. CLARE 2018: LETTER OF THE MINISTER GENERAL

Discernment: purification of the gaze, of the heart, and of the will

Dearest sisters,

May the Lord give us his Peace!

Last year I offered you some reflections based on the words that guided our preparation as Friars Minor for the Plenary Council that we celebrated last June in Nairobi: listening, discerning, acting. This year I would like to focus on the second element in particular. Looking at the example and words of Clare I would like to highlight some useful aspects that can help us towards a discernment that might increasingly shape our lives, making them a faithful and joyful response to God’s call in this time, and in this space that is given to each of us. We have been adopted by God as children in the Son Jesus, who died and rose again, and so from the moment of our baptism we pray: “Our Father, thy will be done”. The way of discernment is the only possible authentic way of existing, because, as Francis tells us, “Nowthat we have left the world, however, we have nothing else to do but to follow the will of the Lord and to please Him.” (RnbXXII, 9). Clare on her part “insofar as she could, tried to please God.” (Proc8,3). Looking back over the Clarian sources, the letters in particular, I notice that Clare lives and suggests discernment as a path of purification: purification of the gaze, of the heart, and of the will.

Purification of the gaze
The starting point is the reality in which we find ourselves; even before that, it is the reality that “we are,” that each of us “is” by nature and by grace. Very often we experience the distortion of reality within us and around us. Preconceptions and prejudices of any kind can distort our reading of what is going on within us or in our community, in the Church, or in society … Is this not an initial factor in many misunderstandings, misconceptions, or conflicting relationships?
Purify the gaze to ‘see’ well: to see how God sees us, to see without distorting filters. Just as she wrote to Agnes of Prague, Clare reminds each one of us today that by being like Jesus, making his gaze our own, we can ‘see’ reality in truth, beyond the changes produced by sin in all its forms: “He is the radiance of eternal glory is the brightness of eternal light and the mirror without blemish. Gaze upon that mirror each day, O Queen and Spouse of Jesus Christ, and continually study your face in it,” (4LAg14-15); for surely “in your light we see light” (Ps36 (35:10).
Clare had begun to experience the purification of the gaze when Francis “encouraged her to despise the world, showing her by his living speech how dry the hope of the world was and how deceptive its beauty. He whispered in her ears of a sweet espousal with Christ,” (LegsC5). Clare really learned this well as she writes to Agnes in Prague: “after all who ensnare their blind lovers in a deceitful and turbulent world have been completely passed over, may you totally love Him Who gave Himself totally for your love.” There is a fundamental, ‘original’ deception, whereby the ‘world’, seen as a vision of reality in opposition to God’s, appears attractive but is in fact deadly, seems to give happiness but instead enslaves and robs joy and vibrancy. In the third letter to Agnes, Clare uses very strong expressions in this regard: “so you, too, by following in her footprints, especially [those] of humility and poverty, can, without any doubt, always carry Him spiritually in your chaste and virginal body, holding Him by Whom you and all things are held together possessing that which, in comparison with the other transitory possessions of this world you will possess more securely. In this, certain worldly kings and queens are deceived, for, even though their pride may reach the skies and their heads touch the clouds, in the end they are as forgotten as a dung-heap!” (3LAg25-28). Communion with the Lord Jesus lived in the gift of self guarantees protection from the risk of spiritual ‘blindness’. Francis teaches us that only the purified gaze can see God in all things. Clare wants to form this same gaze in her sisters: “when the most holy mother used to send the serving sisters outside the monastery, she reminded them to praise God when they saw beautiful trees, flowers, and bushes; and, likewise, always to praise Him for and in all things when they saw all peoples and creatures.” (Proc14.9). Seeing reality as God sees it is the first step in recognising the traces of the paths of the Kingdom.

Purification of the heart
If a pure gaze reads reality in the truth of God, it is the heart that judges it, evaluates it, interprets it. Discernment as ‘judgment’ is the next step in which reality is confronted with the values that support and guide our journey of life.
According to the testimony of Bona di Guelfuccio, Francis urges the young Clare to take care of her heart by tuning it to the heart of Jesus: “He always preached to her that she might convert to Jesus Christ”. Conversion, like breathing, is the essential measure for Christians to continue living. Through experience Clare knows how easily the heart hardens, gets distracted, gets confused; that is why she rejoices in seeing Agnes of Prague: “you have brought to ruin the subtleties of our crafty enemy, the pride that destroys human nature, and the vanity that infatuates human hearts”. Pride and vanity prevent a correct judgment of reality, because they close one in on oneself, rather than opening to God or to others. On the contrary, as Pope Francis recently recalled, “it is proper to the Holy Spirit to decentralize ourselves from ourselves and open ourselves to the “us” of the community: to receive and to give. We are not at the centre: we are an instrument of that gift for others” (General Audience, 6 June 2018).
The heart is protected if it is entrusted to the Lord, in a daily movement of giving: “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity! Place your soul in the brilliance of glory! Place your heart in the figure of the divine substance and, through contemplation, transform your entire being into the image of the Godhead Itself, so that you too may feel what friends feel in tasting the hidden sweetness that, from the beginning, God Himself has reserved for His lovers.” (3LAg12-14).
Genuine discernment requires a refining of the taste for the things of God, being able to recognize the scent and taste of the Gospel in the events of life, in the people we meet, in the sisters we live with, as well as in those who live elsewhere. This exercise of contemplation is entrusted to you, sisters, in a very particular form and intensity, by which judgment matures and becomes the virtue of discernment. Clare is a true teacher of discernment: real situations in dialogue with professed values, without mystifying indulgence or compromises of convenience. “But our flesh is not bronze, nor is our strength that of stone, rather, we are frail and inclined to every bodily weakness! I beg you, therefore, dearly beloved, to refrain wisely and prudently from an indiscreet and impossible austerity in the fasting that you have undertaken. And I beg you in the Lord to praise the Lord by your very life, to offer the Lord your reasonable service and your sacrifice always seasoned with salt.” (3LAg38-41).

Purification of the will
The process of discernment is directed towards feeling challenged by the word of God in order to live in obedience to Him; it is aimed at dwelling within history in an evangelical way, following the footsteps of Jesus so that the kingdom of God may grow in the world. Our projects are good if they are not ‘only ours’, if they blossom, like a root, from our willingness to collaborate with all our hearts in the work that God is already doing.
It is good to choose whatever keeps us united to the Lord, and to reject whatever separates us from Him. Clare is able to turn down the offer of Pope Gregory IX – to be released from the bond of highest poverty and to accept the possessions that he offered himself – and to declare with simplicity and truth: “Holy Father, I never wish to be freed from following Christ” (LegsC14). And she exhorts Agnes of Prague, in a similar situation, to embrace the poor Crucified One (Cf.2LAg17-18).
How precious and meaningful, therefore, is the indication that both Clare and Francis place as a seal on their respective “rules”, almost as a summary of the whole forma vitæ: “Let them direct their attention to what they should desire above all else: to have the Spirit of the Lord and His holy activity, to pray always to Him with a pure heart, and to have humility, patience in difficulty and infirmity, and to love those who persecute, blame, and accuse us, for the Lord says: Blessed are those who suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.” (RsCX, 9-13).
In the light of these words, the summary of an entire life, we recognize that what Pope Francis says in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultatewas accomplished in Clare and by Clare: “Discernment […] is an authentic process of leaving ourselves behind in order to approach the mystery of God, who helps us to carry out the mission to which he has called us, for the good of our brothers and sisters.” (GE175).

I hope, my dear poor ladies, that you may have a joyful celebration of the solemnity of our beloved sister and mother, Saint Clare of Assisi. Greetings!

Rome, 2nd August 2018
Feast of the Pardon of Assisi
Fr. Michael A. Perry, OFM
Minister General and Servant

Cover: Saint Clare. Painting on wood by Miguel Angel Laguna Villalobos (Convento San Antonio, Avila, Spain).
Prot. 108387

 

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS

ST. FRANCIS

FRIARS' BIRTHDAY (May)

Date

Name of the Friars

Events

Year

02

Arulsamy A.

Mesia Elias Moses M.

Arvind Kerketta

Benedict Gomes

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

1991

1999

2005

2008

03

Charles Arulanandam

Alwyn D’ Souza

Birth

Ordination

1978

2006

04

Davis Kallookaran

Tommy T.J.

Arockiasamy P.

Thomas Manakuzhiyil

Saji P. Mathew

Arun Devasia Nattalil

Roshan Lobo

Francis Michael Velcy Barreto

Birth

Birth

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Birth

1950

1959

2002

2004

2004

2017

2017

1992

05

Mathew Koottumkal

Jesu Maharajah G.

Peter Saleth Nathan J.

Andrew Thomas

Ordination

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Birth

1999

2010

2010

1997

06

Jayaseelan P.R.

Fulgence Ekka

Thaddeus Baxla

+ Leopold Vaz

Xavier Durairaj

Manoj Xalxo

Baikim Chadra Minj

Birth

Ordination

Ordination

Home

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

1970

1997

1997

2000

2009

2012

2012

07

Vincent Soosai

Salim Baxla

Augustine Tirkey

A.J.Mathew Joseph

Bipin Kishore Kandulna

Ushar Kachhua

Ordination

Ordination

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

1999

2011

2017

2017

2017

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08

Julius Arul Rayan

Robin Lakra

Ajith Kerketta

Shanborlang Wartde

Ordination

Ordination

Ordination

Solemn Vows

2004

2007

2011

2017

09

Joy K.D.

Fabianus Toppo

Deen Dayal

Birth

Ordination

Birth

1970

2008

1983

10

+ Clement Griffith

Alwyn D’ Souza

Lourdu Augustine

Hemant Xess

Home

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Ordination

1950

2001

2001

2006

11

Gabriel Mathias

Joseph Raj M.

Baptist D’ Souza

Praveen Henry D’ Souza

Salim Baxla

Ajit Kerketta

Anil Xalxo

Anil Xalxo

Ordination

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Solemn Vows

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2003

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2008

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Ignatius Baa

Fulgence Ekka

Jose Palimattom

+ Baptist van de Sande

Vilas Baptist Correia

Salvador D’Souza

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Solemn Vows

Ordination

Home

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

1970

1994

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Shaju Paliyathil

Jesu Maharajah G.

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Ordination

1967

2012

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Kulandaisamy M.

Felix Vijay M.

Nijil Chiramel

Leos Ekka

Malom-Noatoli – Church

Simon A.

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Birth

Birth

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Ordination

1958

1983

1986

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Alwyn D’ Souza

Mukti Prakash Ekka

Fabianus Toppo

Baptist D’Souza

Santosh Ekka

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Ordination

Solemn Vows

Ordination

Ordination

1975

2004

2005

2007

2010

16

Simon Pinto

+ Paul Ryan

+ Egbert Barnes

Jerome Kispotta

Prasad Papabathuni

Joy K.D.

Naveen George

+ Bala Sundar Raj

Peter Shashikanth Reddy G.

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Home

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Balthazar Pinto

Anthony Pushparaj

Arokiam John

Charles Arulanandam

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Ordination

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Ordination

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2007

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Bryan Carneiro

Arvind Kerketta

Birth

Solemn Vows

1969

2003

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Shaji Nicholas Vadachery

Jugal Kishore Lakra

Ordination

Solemn Vows

1999

2002

20

+ Thomas Province - INDIA

Bernardine of Siena

Pradeep Kalliath

Matthew Koottumkal

Jayaseelan P.R.

Jamesmon P.C.

Thomas A.

Joy Valooran

Sushil Beck

Joy (George) Sebastian

Xavier Durairaj

Santosh Ekka

John Sekar

Alangara Boniface

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Lalith Kujur

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Guwahati Mission

Sandesh Manuel

Balaswamy Gundiga

Benedict Gomes

Vijay kAmirtharaj A.

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Anthony Alex Martis

Solemn Vows

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Dedication of the Basilica of St. Francis

Pradeep Kalliath

Feast


Solemn Vows



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Jose Palimattom

Sleeva Reddy

Vincent Soosai

Matthew Koottumkal

Johnson M.V.

Shaji Nicholas Vadachery

Joy Valooran

Tojy Mandapathil

Mesia Elias Moses M.

Anthony Roobandass A.

Arokiam John

Charles Arulanandam

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Basil Lobo

Varghese Lakra

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

2001

2007

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Jerome Kispotta

Fulgence Ekka

Cajetan Lourenco

Francis Agnelo Rozario

Sagaya Soosairaj

Singarayar A.

Prasad Papabathuni

Thaddeus Baxla

Joy K.D.

Assisi Bhavan, Chippilithode

Phyrnai Lyngdoh

Madhu Sudhan Reddy

Deen Dayal

Nathaniel vTirkey

Jesu Raja A.

Johnvinzen Lyngdoh

Teiborlang Wartde

Rajasekhar Reddy Gopu

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Scaria Varanath

Thomas M.M.

Dayanand

Bala Marneni

Paul Kallan

John Chrysostom

Regi Matthew

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Gregory Fernandes

Fidelis D’ Lima

Augustine Pinto

Sidney J.M.

Nicholas D’ Souza

James Kallarackan

Charles Mathew Kolanchery

Joy Prakash

Gabriel Mathias

Amaladass Manickam

Jayaseelan P.R.

Jamesmon P.C.

Thomas A.

Tom John

Arockiasamy P.

Cajetan Lourenco

Francis Agnelo Rozario

Sagaya Soosairaj

Singarayar A.

Irudayaraj Fernando

Austin Francis

Mukti Prakash Ekka

Francis Xavier

Wilson Paul Nattalil

Basil S. Lobo

Thomas M.J.

Julius Arul Rayan

Alwyn D’Souza

Sushil Beck

Saji P. Mathew

Lourdu Augustine

Shaju Paliyathil

Bryan Carneiro

Ignatius Baa

Regi Matthew

Bhaskar Reddy

Tomy Palackal

Benjamin Jojo

Joseph Raj M.

Baptist D’ Souza

Anthony Alex Martis

Jugal Kishore Lakra

Anthony Pushparaj

Praveen Henry D’ Souza

Michael Anand

Kulandaisamy M.

Arvind Kerketta

Hemant Xess

Pradeep Kalliath

Anthony Roobandass

Arun Junes A.

Balaswamy Gundiga

Robin Lakra

Arokiam John

Charles Arulanandam

Sandesh Manuel

Benedict Gomes

Vijay Amirtharaj A.

Salim Baxla

Ajit Kumar Dung Dung

Francis Xavier

Thomas M.J.

Saji P. Mathew

Joy (George) Sebastian

Xavier Durairaj

Varghese Lakra

Santosh Ekka

Salvador D’Souza

John Sekar

Ajit Kerketta

Anil Xalxo

Simon A.

Naveen George

Lalith Kujur

Tony Marshall

Vijay Minj

Manoj Xalxo

Baikim Chandra Minj

Prashanth Wilson Fernandes

Jesu Maharaja G.

Peter Saleth Nathan J.

Prem Kumar D’ Souza

Stephen Lamin Gashnga

Jayapal Dwarakonda

Joseph Stephen

Vinoth Robin

Sahaya Dhas J.

Praveen Roshan Toppo

Felix Vijay

Eugene A.

Jeddu Praveen Chinna Reddy

Nijil Chiramel

Joseph Prasanna Kumar

Pasala Showri Raju

Christopher

Phyrnai Lyngdoh

Basil Tirkey

Vinod Kujur

Madhu Sudan Reddy

Francis Arokiasamy M.

Thumma Ranjith Kumar Reddy

Deen Dayal

Prashanth Wilson Fernandes

Nathaniel Tirkey

+ Valerian Quadros

Jesu Raja A.

Johnvinzen Lyngdoh

Teiborlang Wartde

Shanborlang Wartde

Rajasekhar Reddy Gopu

Augustine Tirkey

A.J.Mathew Joseph

Bipin Kishore Kandulna

Arun Devasia Nattalil

Roshan Lobo

Ushar Kachhua

Salvador Drego

Anand Suresh Minj

Emmanuel Christopher N.

Anto Leo

Martin Sangma

Clinton J.

Nideesh M. John

Albinus Ekka

Prasad Rao

Kasu Eliyas Reddy

Stephen Arun

Thomas Kiren

Vineet Kerketta

Silash Panna

Nicolas Marak

Adarsh Y.

Deepak Kumar

Rajesh Praveen Kumar

Avinash Kujur

Alphone Velankanni

Abhishek M.

Anmol Bara

Akshay Showry Raj

Ejekial Lakra

Francis Michael Velcy Barretto

Henry Jose

Ibrahim G Momin

Joseph Raj

Kalyan Kurmar

Manish Ekka

Marius Dahanga

Nichol John

Ravi Bara

Salun Kispotta

Sujit Ganji

Alangara Boniface

Anthony Joseph archer

Pradeep Anthony L.

Jacob Tani

Gali Bal Reddy

T.S Leo Max

Joseph Kishan

Niranjan Toppo

Peter Shashikanth Reddy G.

Ankit Kumar Baghel

Niraj Kumar Tirkey

Nelson Toppo

Avinash Toppo

Andrew Thomas

Justin Savio A.

Felix A.

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Gregory Fernandes

Fidelis D’Lima

Agnel D’Mello

Augustine Pinto

Sidney J.M

Salim Joseph

Nicholas D’Souza

James Kallarackan

Charles Mathew Kolanchery

Joy Prakash

Gabriel Mathias

Varghese Sebastian

Scaria Varanath

Thomas M.M.

Dayanand

Alphonse Moras

Gerald Lobo

Simon Pinto

Paul K.L.

Davis Kallookaran

Lawrence Simon

Arok Sundar Sebastian

Dharma L. Bernard

Johnson M.V.

Shaji Nicholas Vadachery

Joy Valooran

Mesia Elias Moses M.

Irudayaraj Fernando

Austin Francis

Anthony Pushparaj

Simon A.

Naveen George

Tony Marshall

Lalith Kujur

Manoj Xalxo

Baikim Chandra Minj

Vijay Minj

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

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