Feast of St. Francis at Novitiate

Today is the celebration of Francis of Assisi, a feast for many religious communities whose patron was this Umbrian who started a great movement. The celebrations, as with our understandings of Francis, differ from each community. However the importance of the observance, as well as the Transitus which was celebrated the evening before, is a form of personal renewal of our commitment to the Order.

After much planning, worrying, and plenty of voice exercises, the Transitus liturgy that was planned with two other novices went off without a hitch. We started in our classroom at the base of the hill with a reading from the Life of Francis by Thomas Celano. The purpose of the procession was the joyous return of Francis to the Portciuncola...that he may die amoungst his brothers. While his body was in pain and deteriorating, the occasion is recorded as a joyous time. With several novices playing instruments, one holding an icon of Francis, and four others carrying a sheet with a habit lying on it. In a nervous voice, I lead a litany version of The Canticle of the Creatures as we walked.

Upon reaching the chapel, the novices laid the sheet in the midst of the chapel for the ceremony. The time was filled with readings of his final moments with the brothers, a chant of Psalm 142, a reading from the Gospel of John, Chapter 13, and finally with a reading from Brother Elias to the brothers. The entire ceremony was celebratory, stoic, reflective, and finally encouraging...as the final moments Francis spent with his brothers he told them not to be scared or to cry, for he was receiving his reward in Heaven.

This morning was a morning prayer and mass filled with more solemnity. There was plenty of singing, chanting, and eventually eating. I found one of the guys recorded us singing Panis Angelicus as the Motet for Eucharist. I realized you can't listen to it with the same ear one listens to trained choirs; you have to listen to it the way you listen to a violin recital by a 6 year-old - with plenty of smiling and a little wincing: (Blogger isn't allowing me to uplaod video now, so I'll have to wait until I get it onto youtube before sharing that bit of sillyness. -V)

The event of Transitus and the Feast Day are always important to me. Just like with any community, the celebration of the founder, along with the recognition of his/her deeds and sacrifices brings into perspective many of the questions I think about as I continue to be a member of this Capuchin lifestyle. The profound poverty, the love for his brothers and all people, and the way he loved Jesus are all examples that I find important to my discernment and development in my vocation. For if there is not love, how can any charity or justice prevail?

Happy Feast Day, everyone. Be sure to take your alpaca, pot-bellied pig, or 20-foot python to Mass for the Blessing of the Pets today.


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