In Luke 12:49, Jesus said to His disciples; "I have come to light a fire on the earth..."
People might ask, "Why form a community today based on the practices of a man who lived 800 years ago?"
We would answer that what St. Francis of Assisi began so long ago was not a new thing but rather a rekindling of the first century church in the book of Acts.
While lying prostrate before the Crucifix in the church of San Damiano (Italy) in 1209, three times the Lord spoke to him, "Francis, go and build up My House, which thou seest is in ruins."
The church had strayed far from its original foundation of gospel living, total surrender to the will of the Father, and service.
Today, centuries later, we receive the same
Word. Franciscan Fire is not just a name of a group of people
gathered together who meet on Sunday morning. It is a description of
what the Lord is doing in us. He is building fires --- small glowing
embers at first --- but he intends to finish us off as bonfires of
passion for Him.
The Franciscan lifestyle reflects Christ's
obedience, purity, and poverty (freedom from the holds of the "world"). This radical lifestyle is necessary to counter the materialism and sensuality surrounding us in secular, religious and personal areas.
We are called to a life of prayer, penance (daily conversion) and humble service; of simplicity. These are the qualities characterizing the life of Jesus and the early church. We are to be "instruments of peace" and to "be in the world, but not of the world."
You may ask how this differs from the call to all Christians. It is a specific call. It is a call to St. Francis and his followers. Through our study of St. Francis, we are coming to understand and experience the resulting love for, and his service to, Jesus Christ. There is a drawing in the depths of our being for that inward transformation and surrender to the Spirit of God --- through daily conversion (penance). When the Lord called St. Francis to rebuild his Church, Francis knew that also meant his own personal being, for we are individually the temple of the Holy Spirit as well as corporately (the church). Our heart is to strive for Christian perfection and to dedicate ourselves to God in a special service within the church.
What is happening to us in our little group? We are being changed. The Holy Spirit touches us --- sometimes like the dentist drill that hits a sensitive rotten place and we yell, Yeoow! We just shiver at the light touch over something that needs to be renewed or strengthened or built in us. Fear, a "gift" from the world, that has been a constant companion in the daily lives of many of us is coming unwrapped and shown for the weak thing it is.
Franciscan Fire is a committed way of life, not unlike the military discipline in boot camp. We learn, train, pray and work together; an "apostolic army" to be sent into society, as leaven, going from "Gospel to life and life to Gospel."
It is not by accident that the date set for the official "Establishment" of Franciscan Fire was September 11,2001, the same day as the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. As the events unfolded of that tragic day, we were not sure it was appropriate to have our ceremony that evening.
We met as a church throughout the day to intercede for our nation. Our hearts were filled with an urgency that we needed more than ever to go ahead as planned. We needed to raise up that apostolic army, Franciscan Fire.
For all the armies of the world could not overcome what came against us as a nation that day. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age…" (Eph. 6:12).
Archbishop Sly came to Shepherd's Heart that evening, Franciscan Fire was officially established as a new ministry, Canon Harold Hammond was named leader of this newly established community and eight people made temporary commitments to this Franciscan lifestyle. Interestingly enough, as we see Franciscan Fire as an apostolic army, "Harold" means Army Leader", so I guess you might see him as a "General" in this army
Years have passed since the initial installation of its members, we have renewed our commitments and even added to our number. "Just a closer walk with Thee" as the old hymn goes is our heart's cry. Who put the word "just" in there? God calls us by name and we need "just willing hearts.".
We continue to allow the Fire of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts, so that the Holy Fire of God, that he puts within us, can combat the "enemy fire" that seeks to destroy the Church. Therefore, we take up the whole armor of God, in the Spirit of Saint Francis, that we may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
So, lest you think Saint Francis was just a man who went around loving animals, we want to change your paradigm. Yes, his great prayer, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace" sounds kind of soft, but you must remember, Jesus said, "I came to bring peace, not as the world gives, but as I give."
Yes, he was a man of peace, but also a mighty warrior in God's apostolic army and we have heard the call deep within our hearts to follow after the Franciscan way in rebuilding the Church. This work, Franciscan Fire, is not our doing, it is God's doing; His call on our lives is to his glory, not ours.
Our response is; "Fiat, let it be done unto us according to Your word.