The Transitus Service is an annual Franciscan devotion for religious and secular alike observed over the past three decades. Each year on the evening of October 3rd, we remember the passing of Francis of Assisi from this life into God through a Transitus ritual. The Transitus has become a significant annual event where we ritually revisit the story of Francis’ passing. It specifies the living memory of Francis; it intensifies our commitment to follow Christ in the way of the poor man of Assisi.
The Fraternity of Brother Francis, Newton NC celebrated the annual Transitus service with our brothers and sisters and a few guests. What a powerful evening of spiritual awakening and fraternity!! We began by dimming the lights in the little church of St. Joseph’s Newton NC and lighting two candles on a small burlap covered table surrounded by little statues and icons of our beloved Brother Francis. In front of the table a brown hooded shroud with a knotted rope waist cord lay at the foot of the table cascading down the altar step, empty, bodiless, as our Seraphic Father is no longer in this world.
With the mood and spirituality focused on God, we prayed the Franciscan Proper Evening Prayer at the beginning of our intimate Transitus service. We paused and passed bread in an offertory basket to our brothers and sisters as we read how as Sister Death was approaching, our holy father Francis commanded that bread be brought to him and ceremonially blessed and broke it, giving it to those at his side whilst the book of St. John, “Before the feast of the Passover” was read to him as Thomas of Celano shares in “The Desire of a Soul” Chapter CLXIII, #217.
What a beautiful tribute and remembrance of our dear St. Francis. What a powerful evening of spiritual awakening as we joined together, praying and breaking bread as a Fraternity on a perfectly peaceful North Carolina October evening. God is so Good. St. Francis, pray for us.
Today Most Holy Father Pope Francis canonized Blessed Pope Paul VI!! This is hugely significant for all Secular Franciscans, as we follow what is called the “Pauline Rule”.
Auspicato Concessum, (Sept. 17, 1882) Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter glorified St.Francis of Assisi on the occasion of the seventh centenary of his birth. In this encyclical, the Pope presented the Third Order of St. Francis as a Christian answer to the social problems of the times. The constitution Misericors Dei Filius (June 23, 1883) expressly recalled that the neglect in which Christian virtues are held is the main cause of the evils that threaten societies. In confirming the rule of the Third Order and adapting it to the needs of modern times, Pope Leo XIII had intended to bring back the largest possible number of souls to the practice of these virtues.
Although his intentions were good, to make the rule easier to follow with hopes of growing the order in size, an increase in piety did not follow with the successful increase in numbers.
The Third Order of St. Francis as it was called then became more of a social club, a group that met for food and prayer, rather than a true order of penitents who certainly met and prayed, but must spend their lives devoted to “Living the Gospel according to the rule of St. Francis of Assisi”. (Rule 4)
The Rule of St. Paul VI approved in 1978, the “Pauline Rule”, brought our beloved order back to its roots as penitents of a true Third Order of St. Francis, renamed the Secular Franciscan Order. We wear a Tau as our “habit” and live our lives in the world, while in prayer and helping others in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Did you know? The origin of the Christmas creche is attributed to the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi.
In the year 1223, St. Francis was visiting the town of Greccio, Italy built on a mountainside. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar, one unlike anything every created before.
According to St. Bonaventure (d. 1274) in his “Life of St. Francis of Assisi” : It happened in the third year before his death, that in order to excite the inhabitants of Greccio to commemorate the nativity of the Infant Jesus with great devotion, [St. Francis] determined to keep it with all possible solemnity; and lest he should be accused of lightness or novelty, he asked and obtained the permission of the sovereign Pontiff. Then he prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the place appointed. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. The man of God [St. Francis] stood before the manger, full of devotion and piety, bathed in tears and radiant with joy; the Holy Gospel was chanted by Francis, the Levite of Christ. Then he preached to the people around the nativity of the poor King; and being unable to utter His name for the tenderness of His love, He called Him the Babe of Bethlehem. A certain valiant and veracious soldier, Master John of Greccio, who, for the love of Christ, had left the warfare of this world, and become a dear friend of this holy man, affirmed that he beheld an Infant marvelously beautiful, sleeping in the manger, Whom the blessed Father Francis embraced with both his arms, as if he would awake Him from sleep. This vision of the devout soldier is credible, not only by reason of the sanctity of him that saw it, but by reason of the miracles which afterwards confirmed its truth. For example of Francis, if it be considered by the world, is doubtless sufficient to excite all hearts which are negligent in the faith of Christ; and the hay of that manger, being preserved by the people, miraculously cured all diseases of cattle, and many other pestilences; God thus in all things glorifying his servant, and witnessing to the great efficacy of his holy prayers by manifest prodigies and miracles.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!!!