Thursday, 20 December 2018

Living Authentically in the Spirit of St Francis

This evening in Dublin, people are gathering in the Capuchin Day Centre for Homeless People to pack 3,000 food parcels. These parcels will be distributed to the poor of Dublin tomorrow morning. People will queue outside the Centre from early in the morning in whatever weather tomorrow may bring. 

The people who will come tomorrow do so to receive practical help; food to tide them over the Christmas period. Many also come to wish Br Kevin and the staff of the Day Centre a happy Christmas and to thank them for all they do over the course of the year. 

I worked as a volunteer in the Capuchin Day Centre before I joined then order and again as a Capuchin student. The 'back packing', as it is known, is one of the highlights of the year. The atmosphere is friendly and festive; a mix of music, mince pies and Christmas jumpers! 

Behind the festivity is the deep rooted desire to help others. This desire is in all human hearts and not alone the property of us Franciscans! However our founder St Francis took this desire to a new level as he ministered to the needs of the poor ( usually lepers) in his time and place. As St Francis was dying he told the Friars 'God has shown me what was mine to do, now let him show you what is yours'. 

We can't be exactly like St Francis and that's not the point anyway. What we can be is authentically ourselves as God calls us to be. I we aim to do this we will discover that when we live authenticity we begin to find within us the desire to reach out to others as St Francis did; in live and without need for anything in return. 

Every bag that is packed tonight is a living put of the gospel call to help those in need. It's very Franciscan, very Capuchin but mostly, it's very human. 

May the Lord give you Peace!

Br Martin OFM Cap. 
Vocation  Promotor for the Irish Capuchin Franciscan Friars. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Stop and pray at the tomb of St Francis

 Above is a link to a live webcam which allows us to visit the tomb of St Francis in Assisi and spend a moment in prayer at any time. During the day you will see the thousands of pilgrims, many of them young people, who come to visit St Francis' tomb.

In the busyness of the Christmas season it is important for us to take time to stop and pray. Let us join in prayer with our Holy Father St Francis for our needs and the needs of the World: 

Lord, Light the darkness of my heart and give me
a correct faith, certain hope and perfect charity.
Sense and knowledge Lord, that I may carry out your Holy and True command

(St Francis Prayer for Enlightenment)

Pax Br Martin

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The Christmas Crib: A Franciscan Story

This time every year in schools, churches, homes, hospitals, hospices and shopping centres the Christmas Crib stands as a tangible reminder to us that God is real and God is with us. Cribs come in all shapes and sizes and often reflect the cultural context they are in. A crib is an important part of Christmas symbolism and a doorway to deeper reflection and prayer.

The formation of the first Christmas crib is attributed to St Francis of Assisi. In 1223, just three years before his death, Francis went to visit the Friars living in the remote mountain village of Greccio. St Bonaventure tells us that in order to excite the people of Greccio to celebrate the birth of the Saviour with all solemnity, Francis brought together all the elements of the stable in Bethlehem into what would become the very first Christmas crib.

Francis used real people, straw and animals to bring the Christmas story to life for the people of Greccio. People came from far and wide to see this spectacle. The night was aglow with candlelight as hymns were sung in praise of the God who is with us.

Francis was very real and very practical.He understood that as human beings we often need to see, hear and even smell something before it can enlighten our minds and ignite our hearts. As Francis

carefully brought the characters of the Christmas scene together, he also skilfully brought the people of Greccio together; uniting them in prayer and praise around a living and breathing expression of God’s connection with the human story. The crib remains a beacon of peace, hope and reconciliation and offers an opportunity for us to reflect upon the deeper message it represents.

(Picture: 'Peace' and St Francis at the first crib at

Greccio. Stained glass windows, St
Francis College Chapel, Rochestown,