“Jesus, Take Me, The Barren Branch, And Allow Me To Be Made Glorified And Cherished Grapes In Your Kingdom!” – John 15:1-8†


Fifth Sunday of Easter

Today’s Content:

 

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Today in Catholic History
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer
  • ·        Catholic Apologetics
  • ·        A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • ·        Reflection on part of  the OFS Rule 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Great news!!!  The PepsiCo Boycott is finally OVER!!  Per “LifeNews.com”, “Pepsi Stops Using Aborted Fetal Cell Lines to Test Flavors”.  After months of pro-life protests and opposition, PepsiCo has indicated it will alter its contract with biotech firm Senomyx Inc., which uses cells from a babies killed in an abortion to provide “materials” in conducting flavor testing. 

 “We are grateful to PepsiCo and especially to all those who sent a loud and clear message to the management of this company. It’s incumbent upon us to closely monitor the situation to be sure that PepsiCo remains true to their word.  There are moral cell lines Senomyx can and should be using — not just for PepsiCo research but for all their customers.”

We are ALL strongly encouraged to take one more important step: write to PepsiCo and thank them — and then go buy your favorite Pepsi products to celebrate.

Contact Pepsico:
Jamie Caulfield, Sr. VP
PepsiCo, Inc.
700 Anderson Hill Road
Purchase, NY 10577
(914) 253-2000
Email form:
http://cr.pepsi.com/usen/pepsiusen.cfm?time=5189878

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Today in Catholic History:

†   973 – Birth of Henry II, Roman Catholic German king (1002)/emperor (1014-1024)
†   1312 – Pope Clement V closes Council of Vienna (Was the fifteenth Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church that met between 1311 and 1312 in Vienne.  Its principal act was to withdraw papal support for the Knights Templar)
†   1501 – Birth of Marcellus II, [Marcello Cervini], Italy, humanist/Pope (1555, 22 days)
†   1527 – Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, died fighting the forces of Charles V during the Sack of Rome in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant’Angelo.
†   1536 – King Henry VIII, orders translated [KJV] Bibles be placed in every church
†   1542 – Francis Xavier reached Old Goa, the capital of Portuguese India at the time.
†   1574 – Birth of Pope Innocent X (d. 1655)
†   1638 – Death of Cornelius Jansen, (was Catholic bishop of Ypres (Belgium) and the father of a theological movement known as Jansenism) (b. 1585)
†   1708 – Death of François de Laval, first bishop of New France (The first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec) (b. 1623)
†   1830 – Birth of Guido Gezelle, Flemish priest/poet
†   1962 – St. Martín de Porres is canonized by Pope John XXIII.
†   1975 – Death of József Mindszenty, Hungarian Catholic Cardinal (b. 1892)
†   2001 – During a trip to Syria, Pope John Paul II becomes the first pope to enter a mosque.
†   Feast/Memorials: Saint Justus; Saint Lucius of Cyrene; Saint Justus; Saint Dominic Savio, patron saint of studying youth; Saint Evodius of Antioch; Saint Gerard of Lunel; Saint Henryk Kaczorowski; Saint Petronax of Monte Cassino; Saint Theodotus; St George’s Day — Ðurdevdan (Serbian), Gergyovden (Bulgarian), Giorgoba (Georgian)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

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Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

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Today’s reflection: Jesus teaches He is the vine and His disciples are the branches.

 

(NAB John 15:1-8) 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  2 He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  3 You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.  4 Remain in me, as I remain in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.  5 I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  6 Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.  7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  8 By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is the middle part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper, and is the beginning of a fairly long monologue (15:1–16:4) on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  We need to remember, John tells the story of Jesus’ Last Supper differently from the other Evangelists.  In his Gospel, the Last Supper begins with Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Jesus then provides them with a series of instructions we call the Last Supper discourse or Jesus’ farewell discourse.  In these chapters of John’s Gospel, Jesus instructs His followers, His disciples, about the importance of following His example of love and service, about the gift they will receive when Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, and about their relationship with Jesus and with the world.  The Last Supper discourse concludes with Jesus’ prayer for his disciples (cf., John, Chapter 17).

Today, Jesus speaks about His relationship to His disciples.  In His symbolism of the “vine and the branches”, Jesus is referencing passages from the Old Testament.  In the “Hebrew Scriptures” (the OT), Israel is the vineyard, and “Yahweh” Himself watches over and cares for the vineyard.  One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

Today’s long discourse (15:1–16:4) focuses on Jesus’ union with His disciples.  Jesus’ “Words”, a monologue, goes beyond the immediate crisis of Jesus’ departure: He will still be present with them, even after His physical departure. 

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The first part of this discourse, John 10:1–5, resembles a parable in that he likens Jesus to something they would immediately recognize and understand.  They have seen vineyards in their experiences, and knew they would possibly recognize this imagery from the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah 5:1–7 is his prophesy entitled, “The Song of the Prophesy”.  Please read this inspired and inspiring prophesy, especially the last verse:

The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!  for justice, but hark, the outcry!” (Isaiah 5:7) 

And, a similar vineyard is also described in Matthews Gospel (cf., Matthew 21:33–46), “The Parable of the Tenants”.  (Have you read it yet?  If not, why not do so now.)  Interesting enough, King David and the Prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, also uses this special image of the vine and vineyard:

You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out nations and planted it.  You cleared out what was before it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered by its shadow, the cedars of God by its branches.  It sent out its boughs as far as the sea, its shoots as far as the river.  Why have you broken down its walls, so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?  The boar from the forest strips the vine; the beast of the field feeds upon it.  Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.  Those who would burn or cut it down— may they perish at your rebuke” (Psalm 80:9–17);

I had planted you as a choice vine, all pedigreed stock; How could you turn out so obnoxious to me, a spurious vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21);

Son of man, what makes the wood of the vine Better than the wood of branches found on the trees in the forest?” (Ezekiel 15:2);

Your mother was like a leafy vineplanted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.” (Ezekiel 19:10);

And finally,

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.  The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; the more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.” (Hosea 10:1)?

My question is this: “Is Jesus using this image of the vine for a “special” purpose?”  So, what is that purpose?

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The identification of the vine as the “Son of Man” in Psalm 80, and Wisdom’s description of herself as a vine in Sirach, are further backgrounds for portrayal of Jesus by the figure of the vine and Israel as the branches:

“Turn back again, God of hosts; look down from heaven and see; Visit this vine, the stock your right hand has planted, and the son whom you made strong for yourself.” (Psalm 80:15-16);

I bud forth delights like a vine; my blossoms are glorious and rich fruit.” (Sirach 24:17).

“The fruit of the vine” symbolism, as described in today’s reading, may have a secondary symbolism for the Holy Eucharistic.  (I believe so, do you?)  Remember what Mark reports in his Gospel:

“Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25).

“The fruit of the vine” is a STRONG reference to the blood of Christ – – that is why the Catholic Church proclaims, “body, blood, soul, and divinity” as the core of OUR faith in Jesus being BOTH God and man).

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Verse three of this Gospel refers to God’s “Word”:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.” (John 15:3).

John uses the word, “Word”, to relate its true meaning of this “word” as being revealed at the very beginning of his Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

In the above verse, “In the beginning” is a phrase found the very first words of the first book of the Old Testament (cf., Genesis 1:1).  John uses the verb “was” three times, with three different meanings, in this verse: existence, relationship, and affirmation of identity.  

The “Word” (in Greek: logos) is a term combining God’s dynamic, creative word (as found in Genesis), His personified pre-existent Wisdom as the instrument of God’s creative activity (as found in Proverbs), and the ultimate intelligibility of true reality (as found in Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy).

The phrase “with God” comes from a Greek preposition (“meta”) indicating a communication with, and being in the presence of, another.   And, finally, “was God” signifies an affirmation of identify.

However, what does Jesus mean by saying:

You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you” (John 15:3)?

I think it means: His disciples are saved, nurtured, and given extreme care by hearing God’s “Word”.  The effect of hearing God’s “Word” is to cause Jesus’ disciples to GROW, to be more productive in His kingdom, and giving each of us, through hearing His “Word”, the opportunity to become a pristine fruit (with pristine seeds) in His kingdom as well.  Later on, John will write:

Jesus said to him, ‘Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.’” (John 13:10).

Both “Pruned” and “Bathed” seems to suggest a symbolic reference to baptism for the first century Jewish Catholics.  Through the Sacraments – – especially Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconciliation – – we STILL become the pruned, pristine, fruit and seeds of His kingdom growing yet today.

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The above “Joke of the Day” section refers to verse six about the “withering branch” and being “thrown into a fire”.  I believe Jesus is referring to two specific verses of the Old Testament in regards to the imagery of vine, both from Ezekiel:

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: Like vine wood among forest trees, which I have given as fuel for fire, so I will give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will set my face against them: Although they have escaped the fire, the fire will still devour them; you shall know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them.” (Ezekiel 15:6–7);

The second reference:

Your mother was like a leafy vine planted by water, Fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water.  One strong branch grew into a royal scepter.  So tall it towered among the clouds, conspicuous in height, with dense foliage.  But she was torn out in fury and flung to the ground; The east wind withered her up, her fruit was plucked away; Her strongest branch dried up, fire devoured it.  Now she is planted in a wilderness, in a dry, parched land.  Fire flashed from her branch, and devoured her shoots; Now she does not have a strong branch, a royal scepter!  This is a lamentation and serves as a lamentation.” (Ezekiel 19:10–14).

In the Old Testament reading, the “vine” is Judah; the “one strong branch” is the Davidic king.  In the above readings from Ezekiel, the allegory describes the deportation of the Davidic dynasty to Babylon and laments the destruction of the house of David.  From Ezekiel’s perspective, the arrogance of Judah’s kings lead to this tragedy. 

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The image of the vine was a rich one for the Jews since the land of Israel was covered with numerous vineyards.  Jesus is using the “vine” to mean ALL people of ALL nations, especially Israel.  The “one strong branch” is Jesus Himself.  Jesus is leading (and still leads) all who believe in Him on a new Exodus to a great feast in the paradise of Heaven.  Jesus is rebuilding a New Jerusalem in Himself and in each and every one of us.  How great is this to be part of the “City of God”!!

When Jesus calls Himself the “true vine”, He makes it clear no one can claim their spiritual inheritance through association with a particular people or bloodline (ie. the Jewish people).  Rather, it is only through Jesus Christ AND one’s faith in Him and His mission that someone can become “grafted” into the true “vineyard” of the Lord.

Jesus teaches His disciples that His relationship with them will not end after His death; He will remain with them always!  This new and unique unity between Jesus and His followers, His disciples, is the foundation and source of their (and OUR) ability to continue to do the work which He began.  Similarly, Jesus’ presence with each of us – – through the Grace of the Holy Spirit – – enables each of us, individually and personally, to continue the work of love and reconciliation which He began.

Jesus offers true life, an abundant life coming from God the Father and resulting in great fruitfulness for the true disciple.  How does the vine become fruitful?  The vine must be carefully pruned, eliminating the waste, before it can bear “good fruit”.  Vines characteristically have two kinds of branches — those which bear fruit and those which don’t.  The non-bearing branches must be carefully pruned back in order for the vine to conserve its strength for bearing good fruit.  Jesus used this image, well known to all in first-century Israel, to describe the kind of life He produces in those who are united with Him through faith:

 “… the fruit of ‘righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit’(Romans 14:17).

 Jesus says there can be no fruit in our lives “apart from Him”.  The “fruit” He speaks about allegorically here is the “fruits” of the Holy Spirit:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

While the vine became a symbol of Israel as a nation, it also was used in Holy Scriptures as a sign of an unhealthy falling apart of the family, the nation, their religion, and their relationship with God.  Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of Israel as a vineyard which “yielded wild grapes” (cf., Isaiah 5:1-7): those choosing not to follow Christ, choosing to live a “worldly” life, will be “branches” surely “cut off”, “dried”, and “used as fuel”.  Sounds pretty ominous to me! (There’s a message in there somewhere!)

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There is a simple truth in today’s reading.  Each one of us is either “fruit-bearing” or “non-fruit-bearing”.  There is NO in-between, NO straddling the fence, on God’s “vine”.  The nurturing and care of healthy fruit requires drastic pruning – – in our own personal and public lives, as well as in God’s kingdom!!  Jesus promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in Him and allow Him to nurture, care for, and feed us!!  So, get out the pruning shears and help God make you a great GRAPE!!

For those of us who remain faithful to God’s “word”, we will be given all we need, according to His will.   John even mentioned this same notion in his last chapter:

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13);

And, also in his first epistle:

 “We have this confidence in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us(1 John 5:14).

Matthew and Mark also talk about God giving His faithful all we ask for, according to His will:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7);

Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours” (Mark 11:24);

Simply believe, ask, trust, hope, love, and receive!  Your prayers will be answered; maybe not the way you want, but according to His will and plan for you.

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We “glorify” God the Father by living a true and faith-filled life, with Him always present in what we do, say, and believe.  Our “Words’, our “actions”, and our “decisions” are as important today, as they were with Jesus’, two millennia ago!

Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16);

Whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

How well do YOU glorify God?  Does He shine in your life?  Or, is He a dull and tarnished notion of days past?  Even if so, it is never too late to get the polish out and start “buffing” away the tarnish on your heart out, making room for His heart to shine instead.

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To summarize, Jesus taught His disciples about the importance of “the word”.  Just as Jesus will remain in His disciples, so too will His (and His Father’s) “Word”.  We come to know Jesus through the Holy Scriptures – – the “true, full, and living ‘Word’ of God”.  Our commitment to be Jesus Christ’s true followers and disciples is sustained through God’s eternal “Word”.  This commitment is strengthened, nurtured, and more fulfilled, by our life of prayer, and fed and cultivated by frequent receiving of the Holy Eucharist.  Through the Holy Eucharist, Jesus Himself, physical and spiritually dwells personally and intimately in each of us, remaining with each of us, and transforming each of us so that we might bear much fruit in His name.  Amen, Amen, Amen!!

We observe many people who act in ways which show their personal commitment to serve their neighbor with a true love Jesus displayed (and still displays), required (and still requires) from each of us, Catholics, other Christians, and even non-Christians to care for the sick, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and give alms to the poor.  These decisions and actions become acts of Christian discipleship when they are motivated by our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ Himself.  Whatever the immediate results of this “worldly” act, Jesus promises us that these actions will bear much fruit, in His kingdom, when we do them in His name.

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To conclude, the goal of our life of prayer is to increase our awareness that Jesus lives with each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way – – ALWAYS!  It is much more than a simple dialogue with God.  Prayer is a lifting of our minds and hearts TO the Triune God so that the Triune God might dwell and act IN, WITH, and THROUGH each of us in a personal, intimate, unique, and loving way!  The summit of our prayer life – – our personal and public “communion” with the true and physically present Jesus Christ – – is in the Holy Eucharist.  Through this Blessed Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ, we receive Jesus Himself, AND He remains with us.  Our prayer life, AND our personal, unique, and intimate union with Jesus, will naturally lead each of us to “fruit-full service” to others.  (How ‘bout them grapes!)

Jesus talked about His relationship to His disciples using the “vine” and the “branches” as symbols.   Think about the ways in which we are invited to “relate” to Jesus as His disciples in today’s secularized and materialistic world – – prayer, Holy Scripture, Holy Eucharist, and so on.  When we do these things, Jesus promises to remain with us AND to lead us to serve others in a good, effective, way.  Take some time to pray, asking the Holy Spirit to help you continue to be attentive and always open to Jesus as He works in, with, and through our lives today.  Let’s MAKE ROOM FOR GOD in our lives – – ALWAYS!!

I think I’ll get a glass of great wine now!  Thank you.

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Reflection Prayer:

 

A Prayer About Making Room For God

 

“Most Precious Lord Jesus, Gentle And Wonderful God, Truly Awesome And Ever-present Holy Spirit, Precious Lord Jesus, I love you.  Do not let me be arrogant.  Show me what life is like for the weak.  Help me reach out to help the weak to be stronger.  Never let me boast about the cravings of my heart.  Never let me bless or benefit the greedy.  Never let me make fun of your flock.  Turn my eyes upon you.  Place within me a seeking heart to find you.

Above all, help me always have room for you within my thoughts.  Every hour I take refuge in you.  Wickedness and sinfulness lurk in the shadows ready to devour me.  The more upright I try to be, the more arrows are set against the bows of the wicked to slay me.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me cling to you and cling to your old rugged cross.  When the foundations of my life are being destroyed, help me make room in my heart and life for your love and grace.  All these things I humbly pray in the name of my most Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, my Mighty God, and my Ever-present Holy Spirit upon whom I can rely.  Amen”

http://www.findthepower.com/PrayerPages/PrayerPagesMakeRoomForGod.htm

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 Catholic Apologetics:

My reason and purpose for this section on my blog is to provide “scriptural confirmation” for our beliefs and doctrines, not to cause dissention or opposition with my fellow believers in Jesus Christ, yet not in union with the Roman Catholic Church.  Whether God speaks to us through the “Bible”, or through “Tradition”, it is the Holy Spirit that inspires the “Word” from which all authentic tradition flows.

Tradition can be separated into two aspects: oral and behavioral.  Oral tradition includes written forms.  After all, it ALL started with oral tradition.  Behavioral tradition includes Baptism, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, Laying on of hands or healing, Intercessory prayer, and Ordination.  

All Scriptural verses are taken from both the Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

Scripture and Tradition

“I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) RSV.

“ Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you” (1 Corinthians 11:2) KJV.

**

Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) RSV.

Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.  That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us” (2 Timothy 1:13-14) KJV.

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Blessed Gerard of Lunel (13th century)

Gerard, born into a noble family in southern France, showed an early inclination to piety—so much so that he received the habit of the Third  Order of St. Francis at the age of five.  When he was 18, Gerard and his brother, Effrenaud, hid themselves in a cave on the banks of a river and began two years of living as hermits.  Both brothers then decided to go on a pilgrimage, in part to discourage the many visitors to the hermitage who had heard of their reputation for holiness.  Making their way to Rome on foot, they spent two years there, visiting its many famous churches and shrines.

They intended to continue to Jerusalem, but Gerard collapsed on the way.  While his brother went to seek help, he left Gerard in a simple cottage near Montesanto, Italy, but Gerard expired before his brother’s return.

Many miracles are said to have taken place at Gerard’s tomb, making it a favorite place of pilgrimage.  People who were afflicted with headaches or subject to epilepsy experienced special relief through his intercession.  The city of Montesanto has long venerated Blessed Gerard as its principal patron.  He is sometimes known as Gery, Gerius or Roger of Lunel.

Comment: Gerard didn’t have much success in reaching his goals, including his hope to visit the holy places in Jerusalem where Jesus walked.  However disappointed he may have been by all these setbacks, Gerard nonetheless managed to walk in Jesus’ footsteps throughout his life.

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) Rule
Article #’s 6 & 7 of 26:

06.  They have been made living members of the Church by being buried and raised with Christ in baptism; they have been united more intimately with the Church by profession. Therefore, they should go forth as witnesses and instruments of her mission among all people, proclaiming Christ by their life and words.

Called like Saint Francis to rebuild the Church and inspired by his example, let them devote themselves energetically to living in full communion with the pope, bishops, and priests, fostering an open and trusting dialog of apostolic effectiveness and creativity.

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07.  United by their vocation as “brothers and sisters of penance” and motivated by the dynamic power of the gospel, let them conform their thoughts and deeds to those of Christ by means of that radical interior change which the gospel calls “conversion.” Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.

On this road to renewal the sacrament of reconciliation is the privileged sign of the Father’s mercy and the source of grace.

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