This Week’s Message
Learning to Love with Francis of Assisi
By Cliff Garvey
Saint Francis of Assisi often said: “I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, then he can work through anyone.” I love these words. Indeed, I love many things about Saint Francis. I love his hometown, his simplicity, his humility, and his humanity. I love his faith, his perseverance, and his struggle for holiness. Did you know that Saint Francis was easily frustrated? That he had high expectations for himself and for those around him? That he struggled with anger, lust, and pride? Most of all, I love stories about his life and ministry. Maybe you have heard or read some of these stories: How Christ spoke to Francis through a crucifix in a long-neglected Church. How Francis and Clare transformed the Church by faithfully working within it. How Francis received the stigmata (the five wounds of the Crucified Christ). In fact, Saint Francis was blessed with the stigmata because of his great love for the Crucified Christ; and because of his great love for those among us who are crucified on the crosses of addiction and bigotry; illness and suffering; loneliness and poverty.
Now consider three more incidents in the life of Saint Francis: He embraced a leper. He tamed a wolf. He made peace with a sultan. During Francis’s lifetime (1187-1226), leprosy was an incurable disease and lepers were stripped of their citizenship, freedom, and rights under the law. They were forced to live in camps. They were segregated from the rest of the community. And they were forced to wear bells that announced their approach along roads and pathways. Saint Francis did not just overcome his fear and embrace a single leper. He lived among a community of lepers; brought them food; nursed their wounds; and advocated for better treatment for them and their families. If Francis lived among us now, whom would he love like the leper?
Francis also tamed a wolf. According to tradition, a nearby village was being terrorized by a wolf that lurked in the shadows of the community; committed crimes; and could not be caught. But history and perhaps human nature suggest that this so-called wolf may not have been a wolf at all. In fact, the wolf may have been just a stranger in town. Perhaps the wolf was an immigrant, seasonal worker, or someone who just didn’t look like everyone else. Or perhaps the wolf was an addict, a homeless person, a person of a different race, religion, or ethnicity — or just someone from Maine, like me! Whoever or whatever the wolf was, Saint Francis approached, offered a hand in friendship, and welcomed him (or her) like a brother or sister into the community. If Francis lived among us now, whom would he love like the wolf?
In addition, Francis made peace with the sultan, the commander of Muslim armies that controlled the Holy Land; ordered the execution of Francis’s friends who had served as missionaries; and captured children and sold them into slavery. Yes, Francis even made peace with this man! Francis approached him in a spirit of peace and fellowship and attempted to convert him to Christianity. The penalty for this crude attempt at evangelization might have been death. But the sultan was so taken aback by Francis’s authentic and simple faith that he em- braced him; fed him; and gave him safe passage home. Surely, if Francis can reach out to the sultan, then we can reach out to a neighbor, colleague, friend, or relative against whom we hold an age-old grudge. If Saint Francis lived among us now, whom would he love like the leper, the wolf, or the sultan? The homeless man who begs for a buck? The single mother who asks for a helping hand? The divorced parishioner who pleads to be welcomed? The Alzheimer’s patient who longs to remember? The cancer patient whose hand needs holding? Or the AIDS patient who needs to be bathed but is too weak to bathe herself?
Saint Francis often said: “I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, then he can work through anyone.” And so, God does. He works through sinners like us. He calls on us to give faithful witness to his love and mercy: to the leper, to the wolf, to the sultan, and to whomever they may be in our own lives. Just as he did more than 800 years ago, Christ calls to us from the Cross. He calls on us to listen for the leper’s bell, to approach, embrace, serve, and welcome. Like Saint Francis, Christ calls on us to live the Gospel, share it with love, and rebuild the Church one person at a time. Bell by bell. Leper by leper. Wolf by wolf. Sultan by sultan. Person by person. Life by life. May God give us the grace to listen for the bells, answer the calls, and embrace the lepers.
May the Lord give you peace!
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
CCGR Weekly Newsletter (10-30-16)
Bringing Home the Word (10-30-16)
Pastor’s Note: This week’s message is a transcript of a talk that Cliff gave to the Holy Family Women’s Guild on October 5th in celebration of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi. On behalf of the Women’s Guild, we wish to thank Cliff for sharing this reflection with us and with all who live, work, and worship in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport. Saint Francis of Assisi, pray for us!
Solemnity of All Saints
A Holy Day of Obligation
Tuesday, November 1st
Since late antiquity, the People of God have honored the holy men and women who have been canonized by saints in the Roman Catholic Church. The Solemnity of All Saints honors all saints, known and unknown, who have gone before us in faith and pray for the salvation of souls. In commemoration of this Holy Day of Obligation on Tuesday, November 1st, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport will celebrate Masses according to the following schedule: Monday, October 31st at 4:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church; Tuesday, November 1st at 8:ooam in Saint Joachim Church; Tuesday, November 1st at 12:00pm in Saint Ann Church; and Tuesday, November 1st at 7:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. For more information, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com; or see a member of our pastoral team. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
November: Month of All Souls
Masses of Remembrance
During November, which is also known as the Month of All Souls, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport will celebrate three Masses of Remembrance for those from our parishes who have journeyed home to the Lord during the past year and whose funerals were celebrated in our churches. These Masses will be celebrated according to the following schedule: Saturday, October 29th at 4:00pm Saint Ann Church; Sunday, November 13th at 10:00am Saint Joachim Church; and Sunday, November 20th at 11:45am Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. At each Mass of Remembrance, the names of our dearly departed loved ones, friends, and fellow parishioners will be read aloud. During this upcoming Month of All Souls, let us unite our hearts and voices in prayer for those we have lost. For more information about the Month of All Souls, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or see a member of our pastoral team. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish
Fried Dough Breakfast
Saturday, November 12th
All are invited to join Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish for its Annual Fried Dough Breakfast on Saturday, November 12th from 9:00am until 11:00am in Our Lady’s Hall. Coffee, tea, and our delicious fried dough and sweetbread will be served. In addition, freshly baked homemade sweetbread will be available for purchase. For more information, please contact Matt Parisi at email@example.com. Please join us for a special morning of fried dough and fellowship! All are invited! All are welcome!
Holy Family Parish
Annual Christmas Fair
Saturday, November 19th
All are invited to join Holy Family Parish for its Annual Christmas Fair on Saturday, November 19th from 9:00am until 2:00pm in the newly renovated Saint Ann Church Hall. This year’s fair will feature various sales tables, including homemade baked goods and cookies, Christmas decorations, Santa’s Corner, Chinese Raffle, White Elephant Table, and our famous Basket Wheel! In addition, raffle tickets are now available for cash prizes, an I-Pad, and a Red Sox Game Package. We are very grateful for all donations! We are especially grateful to Greely Funeral Home and Pike-Newhall Funeral Home for their donations of our raffle prizes. The Christmas Fair Committee and the Women’s Guild are working overtime to make this year’s fair another great success! So, please support this important parish fundraising event by joining us on Saturday, November 19th! For more information, please contact Lydia Bertolino at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are welcome!
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