Sunday, October 4, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for the Feast of St. Francis - October 4, 2020 - Presiders: Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Rosie Smead, ARCWP

Welcome and Theme 

Good morning and welcome to the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community. The Season of Creation, which began on August 30, culminates today with the Feast of St. Francis. 

I feel especially privileged to be a co-presider on this day since I was with the Conventual Franciscans as a young man. Francis of Assisi, certainly a very popular saint, has come to be associated with the environment because of his love for creation. In his canticle, he calls the sun and fire his brothers, and the moon and water his sisters, and on October 3, 1226 he embraced even sister death. There are many stories: his taming the wolf who terrorized the people of Gubbio, his preaching to the birds “My sweet little sisters, birds of the sky, … In every beat of your wings and every note of your songs, praise God who has given you the greatest of gifts, the freedom of the air. So please beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and always sing praise to God" are just a few examples. 

I’m also delighted that Rosie Smead, a priest in Kentucky, agreed to lead us in prayer since she has a great love for dogs which she has bred for many years. Let us not forget that dog is GOD spelled backwards. 

In 2015, Pope Francis published his second encyclical “Laudato Si” with the subtitle ‘On Care for our Common Home.’ Yesterday, at the Sacro Convento in Assisi, he signed and released his third encyclical “Fratelli tutti” which stresses our common humanity as sisters and brothers and the importance of promoting peace, harmony and solidarity with the world. This is very timely given the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic and the global climate crisis which is causing great suffering to millions as well as our common home, mother earth. 

And so, my friends, I greet you using Francis’ words: Pax et bonum, Paz y bien, Pace e bene sorelle e fratelli tutti (Peace and all good, sisters and brothers all)! Let us begin our prayer in song …. 


Canticle of the Feathered Ones by Sara Thomsen

(video created by Denise Hackert-Stoner)

Inspired by the poem “Sunday Morning” by Anne Stewart of Ely, MN. Composed for the Duluth Poet Laureate “Noteworthy” event.


Rosie: May Wisdom Sophia inspire us in these readings!

Reading 1: from the first known letter from Francis to all Christians

"O how happy and blessed are those who love God and do as Jesus said in the gospel: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your neighbor as yourself. Therefore, let us love God with a pure heart and mind. This is his particular desire when Jesus says: True worshipers adore Abba God in spirit and truth. For all who adore must do so in the spirit of truth. Let us also direct to God our praises and prayers, saying: "Our Father/Mother, who are in heaven," since we must always pray and never grow slack.

Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms … Women and men lose all the material things they leave behind in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For such, they will receive from God the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of God will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. God will permanently dwell in them. They will be Abba’s children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of Jesus, the Christ.

Reading 2: Listening and Interpreting Nature and God’s Messages 

The history of the universe and nature is being told to us by the stars, by the Earth, by the uprising and elevation of the mountains, by the animals, the woods and jungles, and by the rivers. Our task is to know how to listen and interpret the messages that are sent to us. The original peoples knew how to read every movement of the clouds, the meaning of the winds, and they knew when violent downpours were coming... We have forgotten all that.                     -Leonardo Boff (former Franciscan), theologian known for his support of liberation theology

Reading 3: We Are All Connected: Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor 

‘Peace, justice and the preservation of creation are three absolutely interconnected themes, which cannot be separated and treated individually’ …. Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.”  -Laudato Si’ 92 [Pope Francis]

Reading 4: Gospel of Matthew 

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The kin-dom of heaven is like the owner of an estate who went out at dawn to hire workers for the vineyard. After reaching an agreement with them for the usual daily wage, the owner sent them out into the vineyard.

About mid-morning, the owner came out and saw others standing around the marketplace without work, and said to them, ‘You go along to my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is fair.’ At that they left.

Around noon and again in mid-afternoon, the owner came out and did the same. Finally, going out late in the afternoon, the owner found still others standing around and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’

‘No one has hired us,’ they replied. The owner said, ‘You go to my vineyard, too.’

Rosie Let our response be a song of praise: ALLELUIA!

Homily Starter  Jim  

[May the ramblings of my heart and mind help you to reflect on these readings through the lens of creation. Amen.]

I’ll focus on the themes of creation as incarnational, minority and our relationship as sisters and brothers all.

For Francis, all of creation was incarnational! It bore the footprint and face of God. Ilia Delio, OSF, a Franciscan sister, theologian and scientist, believes that Francis challenged his 13th century world to see with new eyes. In her book entitled The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, she quotes Angela Foligno, a third order Franciscan after Francis’ death, who said “the whole creation is pregnant with God.” In his Canticle of the Creatures, Francis calls each aspect of creation his brother and sister. This song stresses a relationship of equals. In case you didn’t know, Francis was the “inventor” of the Christmas creche/manger scene because he was so taken with God, the Holy One, becoming human.

Pope Francis reminds us in his encyclical Laudato Si that “not only is everything related but that we are united in pilgrimage together with all of creation.” And if this is true, then we must take to heart the words of another Franciscan, Leonardo Boff, who reminds us in our second reading that the Holy One is speaking to us in creation, so be attentive, listen, interpret and respond.

It is said that while he was praying in the little Church of San Damiano, Francis had a mystical experience and heard the voice of Jesus speaking to him from the cross, saying “Francis, rebuild my church.” And we know how he responded. He never wanted to write a rule for his followers, but was forced by the religious authorities of the time as his movement grew in popularity. He kept it very simple, and really the very first line of the Rule says it all: “This is the Rule and Life of the friars minor, to live the Gospel of Jesus ……”  Everyone was to be a lesser brother, introducing the theme of minority in community living. In his letter to all Christians, Francis urges everyone to be humble servants, thus becoming “the spouses, brothers and mothers of Jesus.”

I believe that the entire RC Women Priest movement and intentional communities like ours, the Upper Room, are continuing to rebuild and reform our church. And just like the Portiuncula (home church to Francis and those early followers) sits within the basilica of St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, so also the Women Priest movement and communities like Upper Room and Mary Mother of Jesus take its place within creation, the most splendid cathedral imaginable. 

Our Gospel reading today speaks of another parable only recounted by the writer named Matthew. What is this parable about? Do we see ourselves in this story? Here we go again, Jesus is messing with our heads and our hearts! I purposely left out the rest of the story since we know it so well “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” I’m not going there since it’s not where I place the emphasis today. 

Let’s focus on the first part of this gospel story. We’re told that the owner goes out five times to hire workers. What is striking to me is that on the fifth occasion, he says “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” The owner obviously recognizes them yet didn’t choose them earlier. Why? This becomes a crucial question for me.

There is nothing to suggest that they are lazy or irresponsible. I suggest that they are the unwanted, the marginalized, perhaps those we often discriminate against. Think of the unemployed and underemployed as well as the undocumented immigrants in our country. Is this kin-dom story about them? About us? 

When we consider the ending of this story, it makes no sense from an economic standpoint or even that of labor management because we confuse equality with fairness. I worked so hard; I deserve more than…. Imagine, we even want to control generosity which reflects God’s goodness. Is it because we believe there is not enough? Yet at the end of the story, no one’s well-being is threatened; all were able to provide for their family. 

At the end of his life, when Francis was about to embrace “sister death” surrounded by his community, he blessed them with the words “God has shown me what was mine to do. May God show you what is yours to do.”

If the entire cosmos is incarnational, how is it that we are so disconnected with each other and all creation? Creation is God’s first sacrament, and in our celebration of sacraments we often use the elements of water, oil, bread and wine. These natural symbols remind us of God’s presence and love. In a few minutes we will celebrate Eucharist which is food for all. Eucharist does not happen without soil, seeds, sun, rain and all of nature’s processes for growth. It does not happen without human intervention …. the sowers, the reapers, the vintners, the bakers, etc., etc, etc. Remember this when you eat and drink; feel the sun and rain that nurtured the fields, see the faces of those who sowed and the migrants who harvested. We are indeed one with all creation!

On this last Sunday of Creation, is there a connection between the cries of the poor and the cries of our planet, mother earth? My friends, we would do well to heed the words of the Gospel: “you also go into my vineyard.”  There is much work to do. Let us not lose hope, but bring hope to our world!

What did you hear?

As is our custom, the community is invited to share a brief reflection on the Word proclaimed today. Please unmute your device (laptop, iPad or phone) before beginning to share and mute again when you are done. 

Statement of Faith

We believe in the Holy One, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of the Divine Word,
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion,
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's
prophets, mystics, and saints.

We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of divine love,
a source of wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of peace in the world.

We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.

We believe that the Divine kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen.


Rosie:   As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring our personal cares, concerns and blessings as well as the needs of our world. Denise will give voice to those shared by the community this week …… Denise will give a silent opportunity for us to acknowledge other concerns before ending with “We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. AMEN!

Jim: With open hearts and hands let us pray our Eucharistic prayer in one voice:

O Holy One, you are always with us. In the blessed abundance of creation, we gather to celebrate Your nourishing gift of life. Creation reminds us of your love and our call to be stewards and caretakers.

We are grateful for Your Spirit that animates and sustains all that exists… the rainforests that nurture our world, the wetlands that give animals shelter and care, the coral reefs that cradle sea life, the sun, moon, stars and plants of all kind.

In gratitude and joy we lift our voices to proclaim a song of praise:

Here In This Place  by Christopher Grundy

Rosie: We thank you for our brother, Jesus, for Francis and Clare, for Therese of Lisieux (the patroness of women priests) together with all sisters and brothers who have modeled for us a way to live and love in challenging times. Inspired by their example, may we be peacemakers and reconcilers, choosing life over death, becoming beacons of light and hope in our world.

Please extend your hands (epiclesis)

(All:) We are ever aware of your Spirit in us and among us. We invoke your Spirit anew upon these simple gifts of bread and wine, that they and we might truly be Christ present to the world.

On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at supper with his companions and friends. He reminded them of all that he taught, and to fix that memory clearly, he bent down and washed their feet.

Rosie lifts bread

When he returned to his place at table, Jesus lifted the bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread, and offered it to them saying:

Take and eat, this is my very self.

after a pause, Rosie lifts cup

Then Jesus took the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying: Take and drink. 

Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you.

Jim: In union with all peoples living on this planet and all our ancestors, we pray for wisdom to discern more wisely your call to us in the circumstances of our daily lives.

  We acknowledge that we have abused our earth. We have been slow to realize that we take much more than we need. At times, we fail to see its beauty and worth. May we be mindful that greed and indifference threatens all of your creation.

Holy One, may your Spirit renew, transform and work through us to restore and protect your creation. We resolve to act justly and courageously in confronting the suffering that desecrates our planet and its peoples. May we take risks and engage in good trouble on behalf of the marginalized who suffer greatly the environmental injustices of fouled air, tainted water, and a poverty of parks and public spaces that bring people together to enjoy creation in all its beauty.

Like Jesus, we seek to live compassionately: to care for widows, orphans, the sick, and to welcome the stranger. For it is through living as Jesus lived, that we awaken to your Spirit within, and glorify You, O Holy One, at this time and always. AMEN.

Rosie:  Jesus taught his disciples to pray, and so we pray in this Season of Creation ……

Generous Creator, 

the intricate and elegant biodiversity of our world 

is your hallowed autograph on our lives, on our souls and in our hearts. 

We yearn for the wholeness of being in harmony with Your will 

and with all living things. 

Each day we draw on your creative, life-giving energy with gratitude and awe 

as we find nourishment in, seed and field, river and forest. 

May we be stewards and co-creators with you in caring for the gifts of Your Creation. 

We seek to be reconciled with those we have hurt and we resolve to do better.  

With the wind of Your Spirit, inspire us that we may reach out and love one another and care for the world, our home.

Strengthen us to work for local and global justice that one day we will enjoy a harvest of equality and fairness as if they were wildflowers, propagating spontaneously, unerringly and in surprising abundance. Amen.

Jim: My friends, may we become what we eat and drink!

(All:) What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives; as we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.

As we Eat and Drink, let us listen to the words of our meditation song


This Beautiful Earth  sung by Dianne Dela Fuente, words and music by Felix Jungco, OFM

As the world wakes up in the morning, And the sun smiles with its warmth,

The birds spread their wings, As they soar the vast blue skies.

The flowers give off their scents; Fragrance fills the air.

Refrain Oh, this earth is a paradise, so delightful to behold.

         How can we be so unkind to this planet where we live?

        This God’s gift to humanity; Let not ruin make its way.

As the waters in the rivers flow into the roaring rapids.

All the trees sway and dance with the rhythm of the blowing wind.

As the rains drench the ground, the whole creation breathes with life. (Ref.)

All the mountains and the hills are crowned and covered with vegetation.

And a thousand creatures dwell, running and creeping everywhere.

The ocean and the deep blue seas are teeming with a million species. (Ref.)

Coda: Let us love this universe. It’s the only one we’ve got.

Let the future generations enjoy this gift of love.

It’s the living witness of the power of God’s grace.

Rosie: Christ calls us to be disciples, to serve with love and compassion, and to care for our the Earth and all creation. Will you care for creation?

All:  Inspired by Wisdom Sophia, we will care for creation and all the world’s vulnerable people! We will nurture our pets and all animal kin! We will celebrate the circle of life with them!

Rosie: Let us extend our hands in blessing each other ……

All: May we continue to recognize the mystery and wonder of Incarnation and Resurrection in all creation. May the Holy One bless you and all those you love. May it be so this day and forevermore. AMEN! Go forth in peace and joy.

Closing Song: Canticle of the Sun   -Marty Haugen

Refrain The heavens are telling the glory of God, 

And all of creation is shouting for joy. 

Come, dance in the forest,  

Come, play in the field,  

And sing, sing to the glory of our God.

Praise for the sun, bringer of the day, 

He carries the light of our God in his rays; 

The moon and the stars who light up that way,  

Unto to your home. Refrain

Praise for the wind that blows through the trees,  

The seas mighty storms, the gentlest of breeze; 

They blow where they will; they blow where they please,  

To please our God. Refrain 

Praise for the rain that waters our fields,  

And blesses our crops so all the earth yields;

From death unto life her mystery revealed,  

Springs forth in joy.  Refrain 

Praise for the Earth who makes life to grow,  

The creatures you made to let your life show; 

The flowers and trees that help us to know,  

The heart of love. Refrain

                        St. Francis of Assisi icon by Theophilia

This is my icon of the great founder of the Franciscan Order, the Poor Man of Assisi, and possibly one of the most popular of Catholic saints: St. Francis of Assisi. I initially had a much more complicated composition (involving some doves, possibly the wolf of Gubbio), but then I thought it would be much more fitting to keep things simple. So I decided to show Francis in a posture of joyful prayer and praise (the orans posture) receiving the stigmata from the San Damiano crucifix. This to me sums up his character of joy, prayer, humility, simplicity, suffering, and his great love for Jesus Christ crucified.

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