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Listen for the Gentle Whisper of God

“Rebuild my Church.” That was the call and will of God as St. Francis first “heard” those three powerful words. He would hear that request more than once, as he prayed in a worse-for-wear battered old chapel. So Francis took to repairing the chapel, and did so with great care and prayer.
 
But in his heart, Francis began to understand those haunting words were more than a literal “fix it” job. God was inviting him to fix what was wrong with the society and spirituality of the times.
 
From those three little words, came a revolution in the form of what would be a new kind of religious order and indeed, a new kind of Church.
 
Our Lenten and Easter Days, blossoming into 50 Days of Easter, touch us too in the 21st Century. As St. Francis discovered, the doors of the heart open if we spend some time listening and opening those doors.
 
What better time to do so than throughout the solemn days of Lent, the Triduum
of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and the glories of Eastertime.
 
The key is to carve out some quiet time with the Lord. Why not try to arrive at church 15 minutes early. That might provide some “listening” time to seek God’s will.
 
And during the liturgy, we need to listen attentively to the readings and Gospel for the day, for listening to God’s Holy Word is indeed a powerful prayer.
 
Also, listen throughout the day, listening with courtesy to others – in our home, in our family and at work. We need to listen closely because the Lord answers in His own way.
 
With St. Francis, we come to the Lord in the silence of our hearts, sweeping out the cobwebs of our own excess and selfishness. Ask God what is right for you. Many people seek the help of a spiritual director. But as Francis found, we must pray silently: “Have mercy on us” (in Lent) – and “Alleluia” (in the Easter Season).
 
Perhaps then, even arriving just 15 minutes before Mass will afford time to kneel or sit quietly, leaving behind all the hectic moments of our charged lives, the better to ask God for His will in our particular lives. Ask God to help you know what “mission” is needed in the new life of grace showered on us in this holy season.
 
Father Campagna is provincial of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and director of Franciscan Mission Associates.
 
For more information, go to www.franciscanmissionassoc.org.
 

The Whole-Hearted Beauty of St. Anthony

By Father Robert Campagna, OFM
 
The name Anthony spans many cultures and seemed to prophesy a distinguished history, at the very least. St. Anthony of Padua, born Fernando Bulhones, was the only son of a distinguished Portuguese family serving the king and the Church in the early 13th Century. His baptized name, Fernando, meant “seeker” or “peace combatant,” a moniker looking to a future leader’s pathways.
 
Yet, even through childhood, young Fernando made it clear that he aimed to serve Jesus. By the year 1221, Fernando was an Augustinian priest for two years. He was a devout and brilliant young man with a profound love of the Gospel and the poor. With God’s grace, he transferred to a new and radical Franciscan order, taking the name Anthony. He had long hoped to answer a call to radical poverty and hermit life.
 
He learned that surrendering to God’s will is the heart of Christian living. And thus, he became a great teacher, confessor, preacher, father to the poorest of the poor, even a historian in many ways. His homilies still speak to all of us today.
 
This great preacher and priest always got to the heart of the matter. No frills.
 
Speaking of putting God first in our lives, St. Anthony went right to the First Commandment: You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart. His sermons drew thousands, often spilling into fields and village squares. Hold back no corner of your heart, he said, when praying and especially in asking pardon for our sins. He cited dear Lord’s opening his Sacred Heart because of His love for us.
 
When we imitate Our Lord in giving all – even to his Body and Blood, St. Anthony understood, God will take our “all” and give it back to us. But, when touched by
God, whole, purified, cleansed and with a new heart, God waits for us.
 
The moral of his sermon: We all need to make choices. But it is easier to do so with a heart growing to accommodate more love than we could even imagine, a love-filled heart burning with the image of God’s own heart.
 
Father Campagna is provincial of the Province of the Immaculate Conception and director of Franciscan Mission Associates.
 
For more information, go to www.franciscanmissionassoc.org.
 
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