Persons, places and things: Guiding our feet to the way of peace


Each morning after arriving at the office, I pray a prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi in hopes that the words will penetrate my being. Last week, on the eve of the 13th century saint’s feast day, I attended my first Transitus prayer service.
Franciscans around the world hold this prayer service to celebrate the “transitus,” or passing, of St. Francis from this life into eternal life. Blessed John XXIII Fraternity of Secular Franciscan Order hosted a social hour followed by the prayer service at diocesan headquarters for the first time. That meant I just had to walk down the hall to participate. My plan was to alternate editing duties with social hour activities, but the secular Franciscans’ hospitality led me to ditch the work responsibilities for the night.
As we enjoyed Italian refreshments, I learned that the Secular Franciscan Order is a branch of the worldwide Franciscan Family. It is the secular expression of the movement and order that St. Francis of Assisi began 800 years ago to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Secular Franciscans have a twofold task: to tell the world about salvation by God and to help individuals to grow stronger and deeper in faith, hope and love.
Secular Franciscans strive to pattern their lives after the example of St. Francis by demonstrating a spirit of love that emphasizes common dignity and bond as God’s people. Secular Franciscans live in a spirit of moderation to show complete trust in God’s will and providence and firm faith in human goodness. The Mass, sacraments, Scripture, prayer and dialogue with one another are integral to the Secular Franciscans’ movement and spirituality.
Deacon Frank Agnoli, director of liturgy and of the diaconate for the Davenport Diocese, is a member of the Blessed John XXIII Fraternity, as is Kent Ferris, the diocese’s social action director. They point out that the Secular Franciscan Order is not something one decides to join and immediately becomes a member. Discernment is involved on the part of the fraternity and the inquiring individual. Membership is a commitment to a spirituality and a style of life that guides, governs and permeates everything the secular Franciscan is and does.
While I am not discerning to be a Secular Franciscan at this point in my life, I found the prayer service to be especially enriching. St. Francis, like all human beings, wasn’t perfect and certainly demonstrated a few eccentricities. But The Story of the Transitus of St Francis of Assisi offers a moving account of a saint fully in love with God and all of God’s creation.
Chapter Six of the prayer service resonated with me. Written by a follower who described himself as “Brother Elias, a sinner,” it reads in part: “In truth, the presence of our brother and father Francis was a light, not only for us who were near, but even to those who were far from us in calling and in life.
“He was a light shed by the true light ‘to give light to those who were in the darkness and sitting in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. He did this because the true Daystar from on high shone upon his heart and enkindled his will with the fire of His love ….”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
For more information on Secular Franciscans, contact Kent Ferris at (563) 299-6107, or visit
Barb Arland-Fye

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