Franciscan Footprints

April 16th is an important day for the Franciscans

It is the anniversary of papal approval of the first Franciscan Rule!  Happy 807th anniversary!

St Francis had his conversion and after three years, in 1209, with the urging of the local bishop, felt the need for some sort of guidelines or an informal rule for the group to follow.  He, and his ensemble of eleven, travelled to Rome to present it & ask for approval from the Holy Father, Pope Innocent III.

Pope Innocent III opposed extreme poverty and worried St Francis and his followers would wander into heresy, like Catharism and Waldensianiam.  Additionally, many cardinals believed current religious orders needed reforming and there was no need for new ones.

St Francis was proposing a vow of poverty for all individual followers and communities of followers, relying for support only on their own work and the charity of others.  But absolute poverty was not the only distinctive trait of this new order.  The friars did not limit themselves to their own sanctification; not to live only for themselves, but to assist others in their sanctification.  They planned to devote themselves to the evangelization of the multitudes.  His apostles did not sit in a monastery but went all over the world, preaching, employed with their hands and dependent on offerings.

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Sisters of the Third Order? What does that mean?

Statue of St FrancisOne of the most frequent questions I'm asked, after I tell someone I'm joining the Sisters of the Third Order in Peoria, by folks familiar with vocation "options" for lay and religious, is, "Wait.  I thought Third Order Franciscans were a secular group.  Will you not be consecrated then?" I initially thought the same thing.  And when I started digging into the answer, it quickly became very complicated.

Here's the brief history lesson of the Franciscan communities to lead you to the answer.

There are three main orders of Catholic Franciscans, with their subdivisions.

The First Order of St. Francis or the "Order of Friars Minor" are often called the "Franciscans". The modern organization of the Friars Minor comprises three separate family or groups, each considered a religious order in its own right. They all live according to a body of regulations known as the Rule of St Francis. These are the main branches today:

2016 Easter Lamb Cake - Because He is the Lamb of God!

He is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Chapel decorated for EasterOur chapel decorated for Easter!     ---->

One of the Easter traditions in this community is the making of a lamb cake.  I’m told, that until the 1970’s, the community baked lots and lots of lamb cakes and sold them as a fundraiser.  But these days, we make one for ourselves, from scratch, with a cast-iron lamb mold.  The Mother House also makes a lamb cake for our Pascal Meal (held on Thursday, before Holy Thursday's Mass.)  Can you guess how old the recipe is?  I don’t know, but it included instructions for heating your wood-burning stove!

Removing Lamb from Mold

According to my research, Easter Lamb of God cakes are an ancient Catholic tradition and often found where Catholic Polish, Italian or German immigrants settled.  Since the founding Sisters of the Third Order of St Francis were of German decent, this makes sense.  For Christians, the lamb cake symbolizes Christ, the Lamb of God.  But many use the lamb cake to symbolize springtime, new life and the time for new lambs!

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Why do Religious have an Annual Retreat?

Recharging your batteryPerhaps you think, as some people seem to, that religious life is so peaceful and serene that sisters have no need to recuperate.

But no, we have busy hectic lives too, and need certain times to renew ourselves, re-focus, get ourselves in shape, to re-charge our batteries.  That is why we have retreat. 

In our community we have an 8-day silent retreat and it is better than vacation.  What do we do on retreat?  Well, usually we have a retreat master, like a religious priest, come to the motherhouse.  He gives a couple conferences (talks) each day, as well as offering daily Mass.  Our schedule is more lax, we can sleep-in and don't have our regular work to do.  We keep silence except for prayers and talking at supper.  We can go to confession or speak privately with the retreat master to get advice.  And we pretty much have the rest of the day to pray, or rest.

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The Original Image of the Divine Mercy

Did you ever wonder what happened to Blessed Father Sopocko and how he continued to spread the message of God’s mercy?  Whether you have read The Diary of St Faustina Kowalska or not, perhaps in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, you have heard about the Image of Divine Mercy?

The Original Image of the Divine Mercy Documentary

This past Saturday evening, several of the Sisters and I attended a showing of the Director’s Cut of the documentary “The Original Image of Divine Mercy,” at a local parish.  There were over a hundred people in attendance, including Sisters from other religious communities in Peoria, a few local priests and many, many Peoria Catholics.  The film follows the original painting of Divine Mercy that St Faustina worked with the artist, Eugene Kazimirowski, to have painted.  It continues on what happened to the painting in the 75 years after her death, during WWII and the Cold War.  Amazing story.  With drama, humor, and commentary from many well-known Catholics.

Read more: The Original Image of the Divine Mercy