Our Lady of the Pearl
Secular Franciscan Fraternity
Pearlington, Mississippi

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"We adore you, O Christ, and
we praise you.
Because by your holy cross,
you have redeemed the world."
Saint Francis of Assisi

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Our Lady of the Pearl is a Secular Franciscan Fraternity, meeting in Pearlington, Mississippi.  It was canonically established on August 23, 2008, at St. Joseph Chapel, Pearlington, MS. 

This page contains introductory information about the Secular Franciscan Order, its origin, purpose and symbols, and the life of penance, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.   

INTRODUCTION

The Franciscan family consists of Catholic laity, religious and priests who recognize that they are called to follow Christ in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi.  In this family there are four orders:  First Order of Friars Minor, Second Order of Poor Clare nuns, Third Order religious and the Secular Franciscan Order.

The Secular Franciscan Order is an order in the Church, but is not, properly speaking, a religious order because it does not have the public profession of the vows to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience nor a requirement to live in community.  The Secular Franciscan Order is a public association of the faithful.  (See Canon 298 - Canon 320, click here.) 

Secular Franciscans seek to deepen the universal call to holiness by following Saint Francis of Assisi and in accord with the General Constitutions and Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order.   The Rule was approved and confirmed by Pope Paul VI on June 24, 1978,


St. Francis and St. Clare

SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
"Going from Gospel to Life and Life to the Gospel"

The Secular Franciscan Order has its origins in the penitential movement which existed prior to Saint Francis and then in the inspiration of Francis. Francis himself lived as a penitent after his conversion when he lived at San Damiano, and when Francis and the early brothers journeyed to Rome to see Pope Innocent III, they identified themselves as "penitents from Assisi."

The Secular Franciscan Order is composed of Catholic men and women, married and single, old and young, who live at home, according to their Rule of Life. They were originally known as the Little Brothers and Sisters of Penance. Francis is the man of penance in the sense that he accepted the gospel as a message to live in the world.

WHAT DO FRANCISCANS DO?

Secular Franciscans live the gospel in fraternal community by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi.  They are both active and contemplative, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.  Their call embraces a call to evangelization.    

The spirit of the Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order is in Article 4:

The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father's love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.

Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.

A LIFE OF PENANCE

Francis puts the commandment of love as the foundation for the life of penance. To do penance is to love God and one's neighbor. As sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we must have an attitude of examining ourselves daily, repenting of all sins and resisting the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature. This process is not possible through human effort alone. A sacramental life, the source of grace, especially the Eucharist, is necessary. One must act in conformity with the conversion that has been accepted, living in the spirit of the Beatitudes. The result of such conduct will be the attainment of that happiness which man desires and will effect the person's sharing in the Trinitarian life of God. This is the essence of the life of penance.

Love God
Love one's neighbor
Resist the sinful tendencies of our fallen nature
Participate in the sacramental life, especially the Eucharist
Act in conformity with the conversion that the person has accepted (worthy fruits of penance).

THE FRATERNITY

The Secular Franciscan vocation can be properly and effectively fulfilled only through life in fraternity. It is a communal experience. The Order is divided into fraternities, canonically established, at the local, regional, national and international level. Requests for admission are presented to the local fraternity. Admission is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation, and profession of the rule. Profession is a permanent commitment.

THE TAU CROSS

The “T” or “TAU CROSS” worn by Franciscans is an ancient Christian symbol.  Some trace it back to the time of the prophet Ezekiel.  Ezekiel spoke about people being marked with an “X” or “T” to indicate they belonged to God (Ezekiel 9:4-6).  Others connect the TAU with the cross of Jesus and his willingness to die for us.  As such it becomes a sign linking the wearer with the Lord.  In the book of Revelation, the TAU signifies God the Father and is related to the name of the Lord (Revelation 7:3).  In the “Didache,” an early Christian writing, the TAU means the word of God.  Dedicated to the crucified Lord, Francis used the TAU to sign his name and to identify with Jesus.  Throughout Franciscan history the TAU has been a sign of commitment and a reminder of the love that Jesus has for us.

 

 

“Penance is the pivotal and identifying mark
of the Secular Franciscan Order.”

“It [the Franciscan fraternity] exists
 to make Christ known, to announce the Reign of God,
and to rebuild the Church.”

-Benet A. Fonck, OFM-
 

GOD IS GOOD

God is good. God is humble.  This is the beginning for Franciscan theology. Saint Francis entered into the mystery of God and found these two attributes.  In humility God bends over to embrace the world in love, accepting us right where we are, dwelling in the brokenness of our own lives.  God is all good, supreme good, totally good.

Almighty, most holy
most high and supreme God,
all good,
supreme good,
totally good,
You Who alone are good,
may we give back to You
all praise,
all glory,
all grace,
all honor,
all blessing,
and all good.
So be it.
So be it.
Amen.

- Saint Francis of Assisi -

 

The San Damiano Cross

 The Cross of St. Francis

The San Damiano Cross is the cross in front of which St. Francis was praying when he heard Our Lord speak to him. St. Francis was told to rebuild the Church. The original cross now hangs in Santa Chiarra (St. Claire) Church in Assisi, Italy.

The Origin of Devotion

In the early days of his conversion, Francis was living a penitential life alone in the countryside outside of the walls of Assisi. One day, while passing the rundown church known as San Damiano (St. Damian), Francis heard an internal voice from his spirit tell him to go in and pray. He entered and knelt before the cross. There followed a time of contemplation and ecstasy. While gazing at the cross, Francis saw the lips of Jesus move and he heard the words, "Francis, go repair my house which, as you see, is falling completely to ruin". Francis responded, "gladly will I do so, Lord". At first, Francis concentrated on repairing the church buildings of San Damiano and nearby churches. Then, when the Lord sent him many followers, he understood his commission to build up the spiritual lives of God's people. His commission was confirmed by Pope Innocent III, who had a dream of the church in the form of the Basilica of St. John Lateran leaning over as if to fall and one little man holding it from falling. When the Pope recognized Francis as the little man in his dream, he approved the Franciscan Order and its Rule of life. Throughout the centuries, the cross has symbolized for the Franciscans a mission to bring renewal to the Church.

The Icon Cross

The cross is called an icon cross because it contains images of people who have a part in the meaning of the cross (the tradition of such crosses began in the Eastern Church and was transported by Serbian monks to the Umbria district of Italy). The purpose of the icon cross was to teach the meaning of the event depicted and thereby strengthen the faith of the people (these conclusions have been made after a thorough study of the history of the cross and the literature concerning it).

Source: The San Damiano Cross by Fr. Michael Scanlon

Almighty God, and You my Lord Jesus Christ,
I pray you to enlighten me and to dispel the darkness of my spirit;
give me a faith that is without limit,
a hope that is ever unfailing,
and a love that is universal.
Grant, O my God, that I may really know You
and that I may be guided in all things
according to Your light and in conformity with Your will.
(St. Francis of Assisi)

THE PORTIUNCULA

During the early days of his deeper conversion and call, St. Francis was praying in the abandoned chapel of San Damiano, before a Byzantine style crucifix.  He heard the voice of the Lord, speaking from the crucifix and saying, “Francis, go and rebuild my house which is falling into ruins.”  Francis, not realizing that Jesus meant the spiritual church but thinking that he meant the physical building, immediately began to repair the chapel.  He also repaired two other chapels.  The third one was popularly called the Portiuncula or the Little Portion, dedicated to Saint Mary of the Angels and now enclosed in the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels.  

Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels
Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels
A Symbol of the Greater World Church

The friars came to live at the Portiuncula in early 1211, and it became the “motherhouse” of the Franciscans.  It was the place where Clare came to the friars to make her vows during the night following Palm Sunday in the year 1212.  She received her habit before the altar of Our Lady, and Francis cut her hair.  The Order of the Poor Ladies was born (later it would be called the Order of Poor Clares and the Franciscan Second Order).  Henceforth Clare called herself “the unworthy servant of Christ and the little plant of Blessed Father Francis.”  Finally, the Portiuncula was the place where Sister Death came to reunite Francis with God on October 3, 1226. 

PORZIUNCOLA.jpg (51199 bytes)
The Portiuncula
A Symbol of the Franciscan
Community Inside the
Greater World Church

The way Francis and his friars came to live at the Portiuncula happened in this way.  They were staying at Rivo-Torto, and one day when the friars were in their poor abandoned hut, each praying and meditating in his own place, a peasant suddenly and unceremoniously barged into their midst, bringing in his donkey.  He shouted, “Come on in, my donkey, we can settle down comfortably here.”  Anyone else might have been angry, but Francis merely looked at the peasant a moment and then realized that he intended to transform this refuge of prayer into a stable.  Francis stood up and said to his followers, “It is certainly true, my brothers, that God has not called us to maintain an inn for donkeys, but to pray and show other men the path to salvation.” The friars understood what he meant, and they all stood up and left immediately, setting out for the Portiuncula.  At that time it belonged to the Benedictines, but the abbot gave the friars permission to use it.  They paid a modest rent each year of a basket of fish to the monks who, in return, gave the friars a flask of oil.


Pope John II
Praying in Basilica 
of Saint Mary of the Angels

St. Francis desired so greatly that the friars receive the same evangelical spirit as himself that long after the foundation of the order, he continued to exhort them in this manner:  “See to it, my sons,” he would say emphatically of the Portiuncula, “that you never abandon this place.  If you are driven out from one side, go back in at the other.  For this place is truly holy and is the dwelling place of God.  Here, when we were but few, the Most High gave us increase; here He enlightened the hearts of His poor ones by the light of His wisdom; here He set wills afire with the fire of His love.  Here he who prays with a devout heart will obtain what he prays for and he who offends will be punished more severely.  Wherefore, my sons, consider this dwelling place of God to be worthy of all honor, and with all your heart, with the voice of joy and praise, give glory to God in this place.”  (II Cel 19)

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