September 2004

I am writing this a couple of days after our "outdoor" Mass. We certainly have a lot of togetherness when the weather doesn’t cooperate. It’s amazing how many people can fit into Bernice and Ed’s living and dining rooms! Thanks again to Bernice and Ed for sharing their lovely home with so many of us. Thanks also to Chris and Karen for coming early and working hard throughout to help make the day a success!

Quite a few of us came together for another important occasion this week: marking the passing of Cele Ambre. Whether you came to the wake, attended the SFO wake service, came to the funeral, or simply prayed for the repose of her soul and for Fred and the many other family members she left behind, we were united in remembrance of this woman who made such a mark on our fraternity. In fact, as many of you know, Cele was a prophetic voice for the SFO when she spoke up at a national gathering and said that the Seculars should run their own order. (In the Leonine Rule, the spiritual assistant was a spiritual director, and in many fraternities, what Father said was law.) Fred told me at her wake that she received a letter from a bishop commending her for what she had said, but (as is often the case with prophets) many were upset with her bold statement. As I said at the wake service, I am proud to follow in Cele’s footsteps! (This may be a good place to remind you all that we do now have a Secular Franciscan wake service available, consisting of a reading from the life of Francis, a litany based on the Canticle of the Creatures, a Gospel reading, a brief reflection on the life of the deceased, intercessions, and a final blessing.)

Since Cele’s wake service was the third Franciscan wake service I have participated in during the past month, it gives me opportunity to reflect on the fact that we as Franciscans do have a different attitude toward death than the general population (which seems to try to ignore and deny death by marginalizing the dying). As Article 19 of our Rule states, “Since they are immersed in the resurrection of Christ, which gives true meaning to Sister Death, let them serenely tend toward the ultimate encounter with the Father.” I believe that our sharing in life and death helps us to live this part of the Rule, which in turn gives us a more balanced perspective on life and what’s really important.

While considering death is valuable, it always needs to be in the context of new life. Cele always worked for growth in the SFO; even in her later years, she was working to establish a new fraternity! I hope she will be pleased to see the results of our “meet the SFO” session at our September meeting. Please make a point of inviting friends, family, anyone who’s ever been curious about what you do when you go to a Franciscan meeting! You don’t have to tell anyone that you think he or she has a vocation; after all, someone who comes to the meeting may tell one of their friends, who will then tell someone else who does have a vocation… In addition to giving personal invitations (far and away the best kind), please also be prepared not only to be hospitable (we do that in our fraternity without trying – it’s a great quality!) but also to share what’s important to you about being a Secular Franciscan. The meeting will cover the basics about Francis and the Order in the larger group, but the really important communication will happen in small groups, just as we’ve been doing all year. I’m excited about the meeting and I hope you are too!

Peace and good, Vickie