Founding of the Poor Brothers of Saint Francis
August 2, 2019
Today, my brothers, is a new day for you. It is the day of your re-founding. From this day forward, you will be known as the Poor Brothers of St. Francis. This new day falls, not coincidentally, on the feast of Our Lady of the Angels of the Porziuncula.
Porziuncula, “little portion.” Your community is a Porziuncula, a little portion, in the Lord’s vineyard- five brothers united in faith and spiritual purpose. You are a Porziuncula in the Diocese of Fort Wayne South Bend. At the little broken-down and abandoned church of St. Mary of the Angels of the Porziuncula, the Franciscan Order was born. Today you are reborn as Poor Brothers of St. Francis. After repairing the broken-down church, St Francis wondered about his mission. He and his little band of brothers had rebuilt or repaired San Damiano and San Pietro churches and the Porziuncula. What to do next?
A priest came and celebrated Mass in the restored church of Our Lady of the Angels. After Mass the priest explained the Gospel to them. Thomas of Celano tells us that St. Francis learned that Christ’s disciples should not possess gold or silver or money, or carry on their journey a wallet or a sack, nor bread, nor a staff. Not to have shoes, nor two tunics, but that they should preach the Kingdom of God and penance.” Francis then knew his vocation from God and he said with joy: “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart.”
In professing your perpetual vows today, Brother Leopold, Brother Felice, and Brother Alphonsus, you are saying with St. Francis, in your vows of poverty, chastity and obedience: “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I desire with all my heart.”
Brother Pio and Brother Joseph, having already professed your perpetual vows, you continue to say these words now as Poor Brothers of St. Francis.
All five of you, as Poor Brothers of St. Francis, with the help of God’s grace, are called to live theses vows with fidelity and fervor, with humility and above all, with love- love for God and the Church, love for one another and for all whom you meet. You will have, of course, the perpetual help of Our Lady and the angels. Your fourth vow of Marian consecration reminds of her loving maternal presence in your life. As Mary’s maternal protection made it possible for St. Francis to grow closer to Our Lord and to live his vocation to rebuild the Church, so also her maternal protection will make it possible for you to grow closer to Jesus and to live your vocation as Poor Brothers of St Francis, and later, God-willing, as priests for her Son.
It was it was at the Porziuncula that St. Clare was received by St Francis and pronounced her vows. How blessed you are, brothers, to have the Poor Sisters of St Clare to support you with their love and prayers! I can’t fail to mention today the Porziuncula indulgence which St Francis received from Pope Honorius in the year 1216. Francis asked the Pope for a “full and generous pardon” for all who visited the Porziuncula, repented and confessed their sins. After the Pope approved, St Francis returned to the Porziuncula and announced the good news. “Friends, “ St Francis said, “ the Lord wants to have us all in heaven.” My brothers and visitors, may your lives be an announcement of this good news of God’s love and mercy to all. May all you say and do be a proclamation of the good news of salvation. May you be witnesses of the love and mercy of God which our world so desperately needs.
As you know, St Francis greeted Sister Death on Oct 3, 1226 at his little cell next to the Porziuncula chapel. The spiritual journey of St Francis came full circle, the beginning and the end, at the blessed little church, at the Porziuncula. Our Lady of the Angels welcomed him into the Kingdom of her Son. May you and I one day greet Sister Death like Francis did and be welcomed by our Blessed Mother into the Kingdom of her Son!
--Bishop Kevin Rhoades