See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Friday, September 04, 2009

Perseverance


The Little Brothers of St. Francis of Boston
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Last evening I watched a YouTube video on their life which contains an excellent interview with Br. James, the founder of the community, unfortunately embedding has been disabled, so I will link to it here - watch it if you can.
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The brothers gave me shelter as I began my pilgrimage from the Trappists to Europe many years ago. At the time, the community had already been established for a few years and if I remember correctly there were 3 friars in addition to Br. James. Their religious life is virtually unchanged since then. The brothers live a contemplative life within their hermitage in Boston's Roxbury/Mission Hill district. They also minister to the poor and homeless who live on the street or in shelters in Boston. Their ministry is one of prayer and presence. They do not house the poor, they simply live amongst them and befriend them. Their focus is Eucharistic adoration. In this they resemble the followers of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.
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O Lord, my God, who will seek you with simple and pure love, and not find that you are all one can desire, for you show yourself first and go out to meet those who seek you? - John of the Cross
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Yet more expressly, the Brothers communal life is more reminiscent of the earliest companions of St. Francis, and I think this is what Br. James envisioned from the very beginning. It is so simple that the efficacy is often missed by those of us who expect great works and deeds - often in terms of social work - bettering the conditions of the poor, treating the alcoholism and drug addictions of the homeless, establishing listening houses and soup kitchens for the hungry. But there are facilities in Boston for all of that.
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Think not that pleasing God lies so much in doing a great deal as in doing it with good will, without possessiveness and human respect. - John of the Cross
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The Brothers instead go directly to the street. They just show up. Some have called it "house calls to the homeless". A guy might be sleeping under a cardboard box and look up, and in his hangover haze he sees two followers of St. Francis the fool, smiling back saying, "Good morning brother!" And they visit, they listen, they may get him some coffee, offer him a sandwich, if it is winter give him gloves, a hat, and so on. They may even pray with him. But they really are just there. In their simplicity, they acknowledge the sacred humanity before them, hidden beneath the dirt, ofttimes enveloped by a noxious alcohol-tobacco laden stench, incensed with the scent of urine and other foul body odors. They are present to one another in the Divine Presence, sharing an equal identity before the Lord. Deep calling unto deep, in the roar of the city.
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And if only for a few minutes or an hour, the poor man on the street knows what it means to have someone look at him and accept him and love him, just as he is - and the brothers feed him, nurse him with the love of God. What is more, the brothers do not abandon him there, but take him with them spiritually in prayer, placing him before Jesus in the Eucharist.
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God is more pleased by one work, however small, done secretly, without desire that it be known, than a thousand done with the desire that people know of them. Those who work for God with purest love not only care nothing about whether others see their works, but do not even seek that God himself know of them. Such persons would not cease to render God the same services, with the same joy and purity of love, even if God were never to know of these. - John of the Cross
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Br. Jim had an important position with the Boston Opera when he left everything to live the Franciscan call, which led to the establishment of this community. The Community follows the Rule for Hermitages, written by St. Francis. You can read about the community here. The life is so simple and so delightfully Franciscan, I think one must be very, very humble to live it - much like the founder - St. Francis, and of course, Br. Jim.
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O sweetest love of God, so little known, whoever has found this rich mine is at rest! - John of the Cross
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Photo credit: Maureen Cotton

4 comments:

  1. The Light that blinded Paul is in no way diminished. My heart is glad, and I find it a good hour to give thanks to God.

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  2. Your post arrives just as I needed some direction.
    My son will introduce us next week to a young woman he would like to marry. First he made sure I was not going "too Catholic" (it's hard to be like that when you are not yet a saint), then now he said she was... (sorry I missed the word), she is a true vegetarian: no meat, no fish, no eggs, no milk. It sounded as if she was a witch so I had to ask what it meant! I apologize for not being part of the culture! (I am probably hopeless by now) I was wondering how I was going to handle my first encounter with the young woman. The story of these Franciscans was particularly helpful. Also loved St John of the Cross' quotes.

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  3. I'd not heard of this community- thanks. There are some really great third order communites out there!

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  4. I just happened to see this post, Terry. Just this week one of the Brothers made his first vows. They do wonderful work.
    You have a great blog! Very attractive photos.
    God bless you! You are in my prayers.

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