(custodia) On the evening of Saturday, October 3, on the occasion of the First Vespers of St. Francis, twelve Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land renewed their annual vows of poverty, obedience and chastity at the church inside Saint Savior’s Monastery in Jerusalem.
Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Custos, who presided over the ceremony, spoke in his homily about the life of St. Francis of Assisi and recalled how he changed the history of the Church. He stressed that “Francis knew how to transform his own life because he first let himself be transformed.” At the end of his homily, he specifically addressed the friars who were about to renew their vows: “You are young and full of life, full of desire to do, full of initiative and ideas (…) Please know therefore that as the Seraphic Father [note: St. Francis] reminds us, in order to transform the world, the only way—the one that you have chosen—is to allow yourself to be transformed by the love of Christ in order to be a concrete witness to the world.”
For Br. Clovis, who renewed his vows on Saturday evening, “these vespers were a solemn moment of grace during which we renewed our ‘yes’ to the Lord. But it is also every day in the little things of everyday life that we must renew our ‘yes.’” He, who joined the Franciscans in 2012, said that “the story of the Transitus of the Seraphic Father is a particularly moving moment, which touches the hearts of those of us who have chosen to live according to his rule of life.” While reading the Transitus, the story of St. Francis’ death, the congregation kneeled at candlelight. On the topic of the saint’s death, the Custos recalled in his homily that “Francis, who called death ‘Sister Death’ in his Song of the Creatures, embraces it, not as the end but as a passage, and more precisely, a transition.”
On Sunday, the four consuls of the Latin Nations that protect Christian communities—Italy, Spain, France and Belgium—were present. As per tradition, the mass was presided over by a Dominican friar, who this year was Marc Leroy, of the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem and it was concelebrated by the Custos, the secretary of the Nunciature Mons. Matteo de Mori, Dobromir Jasztal, the Custodial Vicar and Stéphane Milovitch, the Guardian of Saint Savior’s Monastery. Mons. Kamal Bathish, Bishop Emeritus of Jerusalem, representing the Latin Patriarchate, was also present at the celebration.
Br. Marc Leroy in his homily focused on the need, in the spirit of Francis—the son of a wealthy cloth merchant who chose poverty and humility—to “be stripped away of everything that can be a barrier to knowledge of God” in order to deepen our relationship with the Lord.
At the end of the celebration, the congregation was invited for refreshments in the rectory lobby. Then, the religious shared a festive meal at the monastery refectory, along with the consuls, who were also invited.
Second Vespers were presided over by the Guardian of Saint Savior’s Monastery, who reaffirmed, in the light of vow renewals of the previous day that the Gospel should be embraced as a rule of life, every day. Given the tragic events that took place on Saturday night, Br. Stéphane Milovitch stressed the importance of working for peace, especially within the region and within the Church, which is opening the Synod on the Family.
The ceremonies for the feast of St. Francis are an annual tradition for the Franciscans: they are an opportunity to get together, for novices to renew their vows and to begin a new school year.