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Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis

Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis

JERUSALEM—The beginning of October was significant for the Custody of the Holy Land for three events: the ‘Transitus’ of St. Francis, the Feast of St. Francis, and the opening of the academic year. Many joined the friars for these three celebrations.

On the evening of October the 3rd, the Church of Saint Savior was filled with the friars, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and the faithful who participated in the First Vespers for the feast of St. Francis, which was presided over by the Custos, Rev. Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa. Fifteen friars from all over the world renewed their temporary vows.  The highlight of the evening was the commemoration of the “Transitus” of St. Francis, the “Seraphic father” of all Franciscans.  Lights were out for the service and prayers were read by candlelight.  In his homily (read here in Italian), the Custos spoke about Abraham’s call and journey.

The evening continued in the courtyard of the Franciscan convent, where students from three seminaries gathered for fellowship.  The seminarians were from different congregations —Franciscans, Salesians, Missionaries of Africa, Betharam Fathers and Latin Patriarchate in Beit Jala. Among the handful of dance and choral performances was a magnificent rendering of Brother Leo’s benediction sung by the friars.

The solemn Mass of St. Francis on October 4th, according to tradition, was celebrated by the superior of the Dominicans, Father Guy Tardivy. Also presiding were the Very Rev.Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land;  Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem; Archbishop Moussa El-Hage of the Maronites;  Bishop Joseph Zerey of the Melkites; and the Right Rev. Joseph Kelekian, the Armenian Catholic Patriairchal Exarch, as well as governmental and consular representatives of Jerusalem.

Father Kevin Stephens, OP, in his homily (read here) underlined simplicity as the key to the spirit of St. Francis.

On Friday, October 5th, Father Pizzaballa celebrated Mass for the commencement of the academic year 2012-2013 with professors and students of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum (SBF), the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum (STJ), and the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS). In his homily, the Custos focused on the wisdom of Job in the first reading (Job 38: 1, 12-21; 40:3-5).  He cited the seventh admonition of St. Francis on “Good Works should follow knowledge:”

“The Apostle says: “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6). · Those have died by the letter who desire to know only the words, so as to be esteemed as wiser among others and be able to acquire great riches to be given to relatives and friends. · And those religious have died by the letter, who do not want to follow the spirit of Divine, but rather desire only to know the words and to explain them to others.  And those have been vivified by the Divine Letter, who do not attribute every letter, which they know and desire to know, to the body, but in word and example render them to the Most High Lord God, of whom every good belongs.