We Welcome You For A Retreat – Autumn Peace

September 25-27

 

Autumn Peace – This retreat is for those who feel called to unplug and simply rest in the silence and beauty of the setting. Prayer resources will be available but there will be no preached conferences. You may book an appointment with a team member for Spiritual Direction prior to your stay.

Meals are provided, and you may gather with the Franciscan Friars for morning and evening prayer as well as the Eucharist. Supper is 5:30-7:00 pm Friday evening, and the retreat is finished with lunch at 12:00 on Sunday.

Please note, there are protocols in place because of Covid-19.

Physical distancing and face masks are required in the building

To register call 403.932.2012 or email mtfrancis@shaw.ca

Cost of the weekend is $195.00

My Heart Is Ready – A Reflection on Year One by Br. Michael, ofm

My Heart Is Ready – A Reflection on Year One

I have had profiles written on me, interviews done and photo shoots. I began a new ministry, extended my ministry and had to put a lot of my ministry on hold due to a pandemic. I have completed a program, been on line more than I can keep track and have begun a new adventure in the spiritual journey. Yet to truly know what year one has looked like for me, you must look into my heart. I’ll try to give you a glimpse.

Last year on August 23 gathered with Friars, family and friends I made my Solemn Vows as a Franciscan Friar. To say the day was amazing and a gift is an understatement. It was beautiful on so many levels and truly was a launching into the fullness of religious life. It is as I reflect back on that day and the year which has unfolded that I realize that my heart has been caught up in a continual surrendering and transformation.

In a poem I wrote while on pilgrimage before my vows I penned these words:

My heart is ready, O God

to be awakened to your ways

to be stirred to life

to be raised up in truth.

These words seem to capture the surrendering and transformation which this past year has been. To let go of ego and let true self arise, to let go of plans so as to be ready for God’s plans, to let go of false expectations and a constant society driven need for achievement has indeed awakened, stirred and raised up my heart. Trying to find words to describe insights gained from sitting in the stillness or soul-stirring conversations or patterns of service is difficult to do. What I can say is that when surrender becomes part of a positive vocabulary, one’s heart is now in the posture of being ready. I would like to think I knew this when I made my first vows five years ago and my Solemn Vows last August. I do believe that I am understanding this better a year later and look forward to how it will unfold in my life as a religious brother. This is the beautiful part of a ready heart, maybe a bit terrifying too, but more beautiful.

In the moments of preparation for my Solemn Vows, in the prostrating before the altar, in the placing of my hands into the hands of the Provincial Minister and professing my life to the Franciscan way of life there was a deep calm and a true peace. This calm and this peace have sustained me this past year in dealing with changes, in moments of frustration, in heartache and hurt but also in the moments of great joy, of celebrating with others and in moments of prayer which led me into service. As I reflect back on the year and even as I look ahead, these gifts are invaluable for my ready heart as I continue to live out my vocation as a Franciscan Brother.

The poem continues:

My heart is ready, O God

called to be a vessel of your love

called to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon

called to be a brother for the world.

If you were to see my heart, you would see that there is always a flame flickering at the center of it. This flame has always been and has been fanned at times and at other times has been purifying. My ready heart desires nothing more than to be a vessel for this flame, so that my heart may continually be transformed so as to be a living witness to Christ. St. Francis of Assisi desired nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. As someone who professes to follow the way of St. Francis, I too desire nothing more than to be conformed to Christ. This is how I try to be a living and holy tabernacle and icon by being able to preach the gospel in word and deed, to be present for others, to encounter the Triune God in all of creation and in all people and to be a vessel of love. This is the challenge I took up with my vows which continues to fan the flame in my heart.

Being a brother is wrapped up in the flame that keeps burning and it has challenged me to see surrender in the positive sense. Being a brother often means being attentive and listening deeply; my heart has learned these qualities in new ways. Being a brother has meant finding a balance between self and other, between doing and being; my heart has wrestled with these characteristics. Being a brother is about relationship whether that is blood, fraternal or friendship; my heart has learned tenderness through this reality. Being a brother (something I have written on in previous posts) has been a gift for my life so far and I know it will continue to transform my heart and make it ready for what is next.

As I reflect back on the year since my Solemn Vows I am in awe. I am in awe of how much my heart has grown. I am in awe of what breaks my heart, what inspires my heart and who knows my heart. I am in awe of how the gift of calm and peace which filled my heart as I professed my life continues to be present in the living of life.

My heart is ready O God, my heart is ready for I know you are ever present, guiding me in the ways of surrendering to everlasting life and goodness. You are transforming me and my heart to embrace the fullness of being conformed to your beloved Son.

St. Francis, my dear brother… you captured my heart oh so many years ago (I found more proof of this summer as I was purging some childhood notes) and you continue to capture my heart. I believe you captured it because you point to Christ and even in your weaknesses your heart was ready. Your heart was ready for the adventure to which the Spirit was stirring in you and how God’s love was being made known in you through your transformed relationship with Christ. My ready and captured heart, professed in the way of life you shaped, is ready for the continual surrendering and transformation which God will guide through year two of my Solemn Vows.

St. Francis, my brother… pray for me.

To all who read this post, thank you for your continued support, encouragement and prayers – I am grateful. God’s richest blessings to continually fill your heart – no matter how ready it may seem.

St. Francis, our brother… pray for us.

Open Heart and Soul: Reflections on the Depth of Vocation by Br. Michael, ofm

Open Heart and Soul

I open my heart

to love

to holiness

to life

these trinitarian gifts entwine

through my heart and soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to the oxygen of love

to the oxygen of holiness

to the oxygen of life

giving breath to the very core of my heart,

to the very depth of my soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to the sacredness of love

to the discovery of holiness

to the awareness of life

these nutrients strengthen my heart

for daily living and for the work of my soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart

to God’s love

to Christ’s holiness

to the Spirit’s life

with each beat Trinitarian goodness and hope

engulfs me, filling my heart and soul…

beat – beat

heartbeat

each beat.

I open my heart,

I open my soul,

I open my all

to and for you my God.

I am open.

 

August 2020

The past couple of weeks have been full. Full not in the usual sense of how we use that word – as in there is way too much on the plate. Our lives will always be that type of full and yes, my days past have indeed been full in that sense, however I speaking of the fullness which moves beyond the surface to our very core. The depth of our heart and soul requires a different fullness, rather they move us to a different fullness. This is the fullness that has filled my last weeks.

It has been in lingering conversations, in quiet moments in the garden, in periods of prayerful stillness, in reading and in creating that this fullness has surfaced. This fullness which is speaking to me and my vocation. The vocation that we each live out is about fullness. This fullness is that which our God desires to lavish us with and the fullness which is part of our inherent goodness. We are given a glimpse of this fullness and the beautiful effects through the gift of the sacraments. How we are claimed as beloved in baptism is just the beginning of the richness of these gifts.

The gift of my baptism is never far removed from my vocation as a Religious Brother. It was in my baptism and confirmation that my heart and soul was open to be a vessel for the indwelling of God and divine love. My baptism is probably one of the greatest gifts I ever received, anointed as child of God my heart and soul have continually been opened since that day. It is in the Ephphetha (Aramaic: be open) blessing where the priest touches the ears and the mouth of the child that this opening is made evident. The blessing prays: The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.  Yes! How beautiful is that? What a beautiful gift to be anointed to have an open heart and soul because of an opened ears and mouth. With an open heart and soul, I have been able to declare my faith and give glory to God. When I have doubted or stumbled along, I just have to come back to this blessing to be reminded that the lasting effects of my baptism infuse my life over and over again.

It is here that I turn to my life as a Religious Brother and my vows. My vows are an extension of my baptism and are how I am still receptive to the Ephphetha blessing. As my opening poem reflects, I open my heart time and again for God to work not only in my heart but through my heart. To be an open vessel for God to dwell. My vows of nothing of my own (poverty), chastity and obedience speak to the receptivity I must have to live my vows well. My vows are indeed about openness and if I live into them well the fullness I experience is not only full but also life-changing. Each day I must listen for the voice of Christ Jesus for often my ears are deaf and my mouth is trapped. Each day Christ Jesus touches my ears and my mouth so my words and actions, my heart and soul are filled with praise and in turn fullness; true fullness. This is the depth of my vocation as a Religious Brother and speaks to its fullness and beauty. I hope that no matter what your vocation, you too may see the true fullness of your life and continue to open your heart and soul.

May the summer week ahead offer you space to be in the fullness of God’s love and for your ears, eyes, mouth and heart to be opened.

Abiding in Christ: Feast Day of St. Clare 2020, August 11 by Br. Michael, ofm

 

“Abide in me as I abide in you.” “Abide in my love” (John 15.4-10)

What does it mean to abide?

The dictionary definition is to “accept or act in accordance with…” In other words: to observe, to follow, to uphold, to heed.

It is being caught up in, wrapped up, knowing the closeness of another, the intimacy that comes with being that close to someone. When Jesus gives to his disciples this message of abiding in him and being connected to the true vine, he is inviting them into the depths of his relationship with God. He is encouraging them to stay connected and focused on him and his message. In other words, to follow him into the passion and through to the resurrection. While they stumble along with their focus and determination in this charge, they do abide with him. Even when they deny, doubt or despair still they abide. They are drawn back time and again to remain connected to the true vine. It is the depth of the love of Christ in which they abide and which in turn they carry with them. The same is true for us.

The same can indeed be said of St. Francis and St. Clare. St. Francis so caught up in abiding in Christ that it was contagious and soon his followers were caught up in this abiding love. His abiding in Christ fuelled Clare’s desire to leave her comfortable life and abide in the depth of this love and let it shape her way of life. St. Clare’s desire to abide in Christ and in his love peppered her correspondence. In a letter to Agnes of Prague, she wrote: “What a great and praiseworthy exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of the earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed eternal life.” Clare’s vision, her gaze on Christ was beyond the surface and time constraints in which she lived. They were the depth of her heart, they guided her actions and strengthened her resolve to abide in Christ, her groom, no matter what.

In Hosea (2.16,17, 21-22) we read: “I will espouse you in love, mercy and fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.” This is how St. Clare abided in Christ. She trusted in his love, mercy and fidelity to her. When she felt she was being denied the dignity that was hers she turned to her Beloved who was also denied the dignity which was his. When she doubted, she returned to her Beloved’s gaze once again. When she was filled with despair she went within to the place of true light and her Beloved’s fidelity once again strengthened her branch on the true vine.

Last year when I was in Assisi, I was taken by a few places and thanks to inquiries was able to narrow it down to a top five. Two of those top five were San Damiano where St. Clare lived and the Basilica of St. Clare built in her honor.

The Basilica houses the original San Damiano Cross and the remains of St. Clare. Being in this space gave me a true sense of abiding. To gaze, contemplate and consider that cross the same way that Clare and Francis did is indeed an accepting or acting in accordance with the life of our Savior. I was in awe of how captivated this image held me, a sense of being connected to the true branch.

San Damiano, when you can visit without a lot of tourists, allows for deep peace to consume you. To simply be instead of seek, to simply be instead of perform, to simply be instead of defend. As you make your way up the stairs of the cloister and come to the sleeping quarters, one’s breath is taken away as you touch the floor upon which our holy Sister Clare slept and breathed her last breath. This truly is abiding, to give one’s all, one’s whole life to abide in the love of Divine Love.

 

Dear Sister Clare,

your spirit has been

stirring among us,

touching our hearts,

reminding us to go deeper,

to not get stuck

focusing on the object

rather to focus on Christ

seeing him present

in the places,

the time,

the moments,

the vistas,

the stones,

the relics

to see beyond the man made-ness

and see that all speaks of

Christ calling us to life.

 

Sister Clare,

you who trusted,

who persevered,

who had vision,

who knew depth of heart,

awaken in us these gifts

so that with you

we may be caught up

in the heart of Christ,

our brother and savior.

Amen.                                    

 

Sister Clare, pray for us.

Summer Prayer by Br. Michael, ofm

Summer Prayer by Br. Michael, ofm’

God of the Summer,
of sunshine and bright skies,
of warm breezes and cool refreshing night air,
of gardens blooming and flowers delighting,
of slow days and holidays,
of birds chirping and cats sun bathing,
You are here,
You are present.

In words spoken and words heard,
in whispers in the wind,
in silence while sipping a cool drink,
in laughter at barbeques,
in stories told at bonfires,
in snuggles in the tent,
You are here,
You are present.

For those who need rest,
for those who work more this season,
for those who travel,
for those who remain at home,
for those who seek renewal,
for those who appreciate creation,
You are here,
You are present.

God of the Summer,
bless us this season,
awaken us this season,
revive us this season,
for the good of all
and the good of our souls,
You are here,
You are present.

Amen.