Wednesday, 31 October 2012

About Joining Our Online Lay Monastic Community

For all new Members entering the online lay monastic community-the Abbey of Saint Francis of Peace and Compassion
The Bascilica at Assisi, Italy

To adopt the Little Way of the Tau Interfaith Franciscan Community, the heart needs to be open and receptive to the daily promptings of the Holy Spirit of Divine Love. 

At the very heart of our Interfaith Franciscan Spirituality there is an acceptance that our Creator God has both male and female energy as evident by the reference to, ‘Our Holy Father Mother God.’ The Little Way to spiritual wholeness was inspired by the simplicity and humility of two extraordinary souls whose personal search for God has changed the face of humankind as well as inspiring many millions of souls to take that leap of faith by honouring the Divine within their monasteries without walls.

Both Saint Francis and Saint Therese demonstrated a true love and respect of the natural world which flooded their hearts to leave a lasting legacy of a spiritual life that was non theological and most definitely non academic. Their simplicity and real gift of humility came to be their hallmarks as God’s special Little Ones whose lives would draw many back to God. Their conversations with God resembled that of a loving child with that of a beneficent father figure. Guided by their heart to ‘opt out’ of mainstream society seeking solitude and silence for the rat race, here they came to know Jesus as their ‘Friend, Teacher, Counsellor, Mentor and Advocate. Who knows, they may have experienced the compassionate side of their Mater Jesus as a Therapist whose love would anoint their hearts when the enemy of God struck to discourage their faith.

Their intense love of God as their loving Father is very much reflected in their many writings. Saint Francis Canticle to Brother Sun and Sister Moon reveals the inner depths of his spiritual love affair with God’s creation and the animal kingdom. No wonder they felt so at ease with him! Saint Therese had many golden opportunities when even as she lay dying of Tuberculosis, came to experience an explosion of God’s love direct into her heart. One has only to reflect on depth of pure spiritual wisdom within her beautiful poetry to see the intense spiritual love affair which had controlled her life. Though Saint Therese’s maturity came as no surprise to her sisters, yet, here they were amazed to see such a young women manifest in her soul the maturity beyond her young tender age desperately longing for personal intimacy with her beloved Jesus and His loving heavenly Father. Even in death, she demonstrated the intensity of the strength God’s love which clearly claimed her heart, mind and soul from the very moment she was born. Yet, Saint Therese would be the first to say in her defense that she wasn’t academically brilliant to be adored and loved as she is today. All she wanted was to dedicate her life to God as an enclosed nun and spend the remaining years on earth doing the ordinary and simple things exceptionally well for God.

As members of the Tau monastic community without walls, we need to be reminded that like Saint Therese and St. Francis of Assisi, we are invited by the same God to live an ordinary life where eventually we become less and God becomes more! Are you ready for the challenge as one of God’s many X Factor contestants to show the world that you too have what it takes to follow the Barefoot Galilean as a professional Prayer Consultant in service to Source?

If you are searching for a simple way then you need not look beyond this modern day adaptation of the Little Way to spiritual wholeness. The manuscript is underpinned by the ancient philosophy of the Therapeutia Essenes of Mount Sinai and the Johannine Essenes of Mount Carmel. Their monastic lives became their way of living simplicity and humility in service to their God. Their coming together three times daily to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving to their God, became the essence of our sacred lineage as monastic within the Tau Community of Saint Francis- our monastery without walls where God would continue to touch His people through a life dedicated to Providence, Selflessness, Integrity, Faith, Gratitude, Surrender and Service to our Heavenly Father Mother God as outlined in the Tree of Life. 

The information enclosed in this Little Way has been conveyed through the Seven Keys representing the strands of Divine Love from God’s heart to our own heart. Each Key will hopefully challenge the soul to become spiritually more reawakened to the Spirit of God. Each of the Seven Keys is initially introduced as Spiritual Reflections to provide the soul with the sense of The Supreme Presence within one’s life.

Of the many Holy men and women whose energetic footprints have touched our lives, we single out two from among God’s Spiritual Advocates our beloved Saint Francis and Saint Therese to walk with us each day as we search for simplicity and humility. Their legacy is one of selfless love devoid of the academic theological statements so often found in the lives of the Saints. The words of wisdom based solely on living a simple spiritual life where the soul bypasses the academic in preference for the heart. Today, we too are called to embrace God as a loving Father and refrain from using lofty words that mean absolutely nothing. The challenge to our hearts as members of the Tau Community of Saint Francis is to follow not the dictates of others but rather seek the inspiration from both St. Therese and St. Francis as two of God’s special teachers whose love of the ordinary brought about a spiritual revival within God’s dysfunctional religious family.

This selfless, reverent spiritual love affair that both men shared on a purely spiritual level became the sole driving force behind many of the teachings that Saint Francis wrote for his followers to adopt in their search for God through simplicity and humility. The intense spiritual love affair that engulfed the soul of Saint Francis became so intense that finally he was given the stigmata, or same hallmarks of his crucified Lord, Jesus Christ.

In his personal faith journey, Saint Francis acknowledged against the teachings of his Church, the presence of both the Divine Feminine, Mary Magdalene as well as the Masculine energies of Jesus. Yes, he had a devotion to Mother Mary but he knew that as Magdalene was the ‘Beloved Disciple, whom Jesus loved,’ he restored allegiance to balancing both energies and avoided the route of adherence to the traditional doctrines imposed by the Catholic Church. Franciscan spirituality embraces a new concept of balance, harmony and divine connectedness by not only acknowledging the presence of the Divine Feminine but also shows a great reverence to Mother Earth and all creation as noted in the respected ‘Canticle of the Creatures.’ The spirituality of Saint Francis embraced a ‘New World Order’ of four important ecologies that would challenge the entire Christian world of that era to the present day. Instead of adhering to the Roman Catholic view point, Saint Francis adopted the Catholic or Universal view that as children of the same loving God/dess, we are all one in the eyes of God.  Here we have the birth of interfaith dialogue between Saint Francis and Jesus seeking reconciliation for all mankind to be as one, just as Jesus is with His Father Mother God. Franciscan Spirituality takes the cry of Jesus from the cross to his heart, ‘Father, I pray that they will be one as You and I are One.’ The wearing of the Tau symbol is a daily reminder of God’s cry for the unity and reconciliation of all faiths and none to unite as one spiritual family in God for God. The Tau symbol represents our arms outstretched in prayerful supplication to God for that unity.  

As members of the Tau Community of Saint Francis, we believe that the cry for silence first began when we sought the intimacy of our mother’s breast. It came in the times we longed for family outings in nature or wanted to lie with parents in bed at night. The silence is remembered as something we wanted to share but never quite could. There seemed to be no one who cared to help us understand how the silence felt. Or it simply was something that was never discussed. Yet the silence was real. The cry would come again and again, and we would hope for someone to come and listen with us, someone to share all the wonderful feelings the silence seemed to hold secret within itself.

The silence is the home of God. As we search within ourselves to find our place in the great stillness, we discover the room that has been held for each of us, our place in the vast world of silence. As we commit ourselves to receive the simple presence in our lives, we are opening to feel God’s presence, which is the presence of Love.  

In our search for silence we find a path in the stillness through the people we live with, the rooms we live in. every relationship has a unique presence of silence. The child, the mother, the friend, the neighbour and the monastic, all carry a special quality of silence. The earth in all its varied terrain is filled with the presence of silence. Each mountain is a mountain of silence. Each river carries the silence downstream. The deserts and great plains stretch to the horizons of the silence. The earth looks out to the sky where Brother Sun, Sister Moon, the clouds, planets, and stars give body to silence. And underneath the sky every creature, every plant, and every flower is a blossom of silence. Every day the world emerges out of the quiet. All of life is born out of the quietness, full of invitations to return t the source where we find ourselves surrounded in perfect, sacred silence.

The invitation to ‘go and sell all you have and come’ is an invitation to let go of our complex identity and come to a new commitment to what is central in life, to what gives life meaning. The invitation for the monastic in everyone is to centre life around the silence, the invisible, the unknown, so there truth can be found.

Life is full of human struggles needing to be filled with silence through prayer. The monastery is not an escape from life’s struggles but simply a place to remember to attach prayer to every struggle, so that the presence of the unsounded is always with us.

The monastery with or without walls is a place where we can find the heartfelt prayer that takes us to the silence inside.

Every monastery can provide at best a shelter for prayer and for learning the ways of silence. The quiet places inside us discover that obstacles to the silence are not enemies to battle with but are before us as an invitation. Each barrier to silence is given to us to help forgive and heal so that more of life will be included in the silence, more of our soul returned to our awareness. We are given noise to heal so that the silence can be sung again, the notes more loudly and clearly lifting our hearts. Every obstacle is here for us, for prayer, to help restore the natural music of silence so that the world once again can be a great cathedral of silence.   THE LITTLE WAY
Throughout history God has continually shown to mankind that their Creator is a God of absolute love, tenderness and compassion. Even when God’s people endured hardships in the desert, God came to their aid triumphantly. We know from the Old Testament Bible that man failed many times to heed God’s call to fellowship and instead of honouring their God they persistently disobeyed Him as God’s Chosen People.

Today, man has chosen ‘the self’ before God by making every excuse to avoid accepting His personal invitation to spiritual intimacy. The invitation is given freely to each soul to enjoy the fruits of the Earth where an abundant life is promised to those who are willing to engage with their heart. Jesus reiterated His Father’s promise many times to His followers and that same invitation is for our hearts today. “I came that you might have life and have it to the full.” What did He mean by this? Simply, that if we are willing to forego the ego and earthly trappings and temptations, then we shall experience another more abundant life where the mind, body and spirit are refreshed not yearly, but each waking moment of every day.

Those who choose to remain loyal to their belief in a loving Heavenly Father Mother God are singled out for ridicule and rejection as were the ancient Prophets. The price of discipleship cuts deep within the very heart of God which has created many divisions within God’s family down through the centuries. It would seem an illogical step to make any attempts to convince society about God being a loving Father Mother until we have addressed the internal strife and discord which has eaten away at the very heart of the soul.
What is important today is that we honour the Divine within everyone, disregarding our personal views and whilst historical differences are there, we can choose to move away from them.  The challenge we have today is not to preach God’s message but more to the point to ‘Walk God’s Talk.’ The Little Way is a tool preparing the soul to reawaken the heart to regular silence wherein the Father Mother God can communicate intimate messages to the heart in guided prayer.

The Little Way of the Tau Community should be perceived as a ‘Spiritual Ice Breaker’ empowering the soul to break free from the traps that are placed before us by the anti Christ. When we distance ourselves from the chaos of everyday life, the soul engages in fruitful dialogue from the heart now resting in silence to the heart of God. The need to disengage with noise and one’s ego is essential for the soul to discern what God is saying.
Within God’s interreligious family, we have such an array of exceptionally gifted individuals whose simple faith and integrity are a source of joy, particularly when one is faced with disquiet and interior restlessness of the soul. Many who have chosen to live the enclosed hermitic life do so without any form of recognition or praise. The journey of the soul is a journey which travails many terrains made of lush Pasteur fields as well the dry arid desert plains of Egypt. We each need the desert experience to appreciate the fertile springs of that special oasis in our desert-experience. Our faith journey has periods when we are running on empty to almost full but never should we become complacent or be accused of spiritual arrogance before God.  It is so easy to sing God’s praises when the soul is infused with absolute joy but a different matter when we are thick in the middle of a ‘dark night of the soul experience.’ As we grapple with life’s many challenges, we are guided to always come from the heart and when we face a near death experience in our spiritual life, we are guided by the Spirit of God not to focus on the event in question asking, ‘Why me,’ or, ‘what is that saying to me.’ Instead, we are guided to seek the true hidden blessing connected with that unsavoury or salutary experience. As foot soldiers in service to God, we should always be prepared for the uneventful happening. If that implies having our wits about us 24-7, then so be it.

In a society where liberation theology has taken centre stage, we now see a surge of many interesting philosophies and New Age teachings which appear inviting to the soul seeker in search of truth. On the surface they seem harmless enough but when scrutinised in prayerful silence, God’s Spirit assures the heart not to be fooled by glossy presentations which will eventually compromise simplicity for recklessness. Temptation comes in many disguises and none more so than our world’s media. The ‘user friendly language’ is another ploy from the dark side to suck us into a web of deceit that will rape our divinity and leave us spiritually paralysed in the process. The temptation to discard our truth can be an everyday occurrence which often wears the soul into an unsafe place where we are forced to surrender our truth for the sake of compromise. At this time, we are guided to stand firm and face our greatest fears with God’s weapon of Love rather than walk away discouraged
The advancement of the internet highway with its array of modern technology to improve our communications with each other and with the outside world has created a two edged sword effect for soul seekers trying to balance a life of simplicity with a life of living in the fast lane towards success. The need to escape the pressures of modern day life and return to simplicity seems idyllic but not practical for many who prefer to live in chaos. The sole purpose of writing the ‘Little Way’ is not to replace sacred texts but rather to engage the soul in reappraising what is relevant and what is not. In other words, as with all of life’s experiences, we collect so much baggage and rubbish in our walk towards God, that sometimes we cannot see the ‘wood for the trees.’ The Little Way is more about offering your heart an ‘opt out clause’ to revisit what is relevant and discard the minutiae from your spiritual life.

We are told repeatedly from various Spiritual Masters, ‘that if our soul seeks to see the face of God, then it has to take responsibility by choosing the right action that will set it free from guilt, fear, religious oppression and all forms of fundamentalism.  The Little Way of Simplicity invites the soul to reconnect with the heart of God within to abandon all practices whether they are religious or secular experience, that no longer serve our highest good. Yes, it takes a person of absolute courage and integrity to step out from one’s comfort zone and walk the solitary path of the Great Masters. The Little Way is seen as a spiritual reappraisal interview that will equip the soul to see the face of God. It is a safe return to what is acceptable and attainable for the soul which seeks simplicity without the rhetoric or dogma that is associated with conventional forms of religion. When the monastic Fathers initially established their spiritual communities in the desert, many were on fire with a zeal for God’s will for their lives. Such zeal required urgent action to stop monks from getting carried away with their enthusiasm and so, a series of rules and regulations as to what they would wear, eat, say and do, etc were enforced. As with all human groups, the rule of life became so top heavy and dogmatic that it eventually killed common sense and sacrificed the innocent heart on the altars of man’s ego and punitive ambitions for notoriety as would be potential saints.

The Little Way is a practical way to God through the Natural World-the Franciscan Soul. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. In the early years when many of the monastic orders where first founded, founders established a rule of life in keeping with that time in history. However, as time progressed, cultural and religious differences made the monastic rule a burden for many of the men and women who dedicated their lives to God. Their hearts became enslaved to an unhealthy oppressiveness instigated by a controlling fear. Many souls who entered monastic orders in the 21st century discovered that the rule of life was exactly the same for them as it was for the early Founding monks. The rule of life was denied the very breath of God’s Spirit and so modern day monastic’s would be voiceless when trying to bring their spiritual life into mainstream liturgical life.
The Little Way incorporates the essence of simplicity and speaking one’s truth from a heart infused by selfless love of God -for God to God in all that lives, moves or has its very existence from God. The Little Way is rooted in the ancient teachings of the Therapeutia Essenes of Mount Sinai,  Egypt. It is a way of life that suited their individual roles as therapists and monastic’s who lived some 8000 years ago on the shores of the Red Sea seeking an alternative lifestyle to that found in the nearby cities and towns. The community adopted the Tree of Life as their sacred tool for connecting with their All Supreme Creator. The Tree of Life had seven branches with seven corresponding roots which God used to communicate to their soul. The Little Way is a spiritual journey of the soul to God through the heart.

We read in the lives of many spiritual men and women how their faith was tested. Many of the early Saints, including that of St Francis and St Therese, were not immune from their exposure to hardships, failure or even criticism. Instead of being led by the nose, they knew that once they let go of the ‘self,’ and remained in their heart, Francis persisted in following his heart to the caves and meadows nearby. It was here where he would find sanctuary from the many influential friends and clerics who were threatened by his grace and composure. I dare say, many would have envied him of his ability to connect with God they were given the protection of Heaven itself. Their simple way of life allowed them to try and test everything that would become useful in their personal war against the world, the flesh and their demons. Yet, despite criticism from within their religious communities their simplicity to living out their Little Way continues to touch many lives today. Could that be why so many men and women are desperately hungry for an alternative lifestyle that involves simplicity in their spiritual life not in a monastery but from the comforts of their own sacred space?
Saint Therese of Lisieux, or better known as the Little Flower of Jesus, like St. Francis, embraced as part of her spiritual formation, she left us a legacy about LOVE and the practical means whereby you and I can achieve holiness by doing the ‘ordinary common garden things,’ extraordinarily well for God.

Saint Therese said: "I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me." Could that be said of us today? There is reluctance within the mind set of modern man that suffering is alien to our psyche and that we should avoid it at all costs. Without the daily toils and trials of life, there is no other way which we can learn from our human frailty and humanity to aspire to holiness as brothers and sisters within the Tau Interfaith Franciscan Community.
The messages from our Masters to our hearts today are to embrace everything as a ‘Blessing!’ We who have surrendered our hearts to the Supreme Source of our lives should not confuse ‘Childlike Trust and Simplicity’ with childishness. They are total opposites and if not fully understood, they will isolate the soul from God by creating havoc in one’s interior spiritual life. It is so easy to lose sight of our gifts when faced with negativism, doubt, fear, low self esteem where we finally succumb and end up compromising all that we have been given. This is not the ‘Little Way!’ When we take our eyes off the big picture we give permission to our ego to return to our ‘old ways,’ or one’s ‘wounded self.’ Human nature doesn’t like change so we have to face truth face on.

The spirit of the Little Way encourages our hearts to be still and reconnect with our truth; God’s absolute and perfect truth that we are loved not for what we do, or can do to please God. Many have asked ‘what does God look like? My reply is simple! Look at all the wonderful people who breezed into your life leaving special mementos such as their laughter or smile. If we reflect back then we can build a simple picture of how God appears to us and maybe we have to return to Gratitude rather than procrastinating. Throughout time, God has sent special envoys to support His weary and overburdened children through the Prophets and Saints. Their lives emulated that ‘X Factor’ which touched lives to re-treat from the egoic self back to being that special child again.
Another important point is that to fully enter the dynamics of living simplicity as part of our Little Way of Life, we may have to face other fears, or anxieties which may lying dormant for using the word as long as we care to remember. We need to recognise that when we embrace the Little Way, we are leaving the heart wide open to being challenged not to engage with past life issues or wallow in victimhood with a defenceless attitude against change.

There is a rhythmic pattern very much connected within the dynamics of surrendering the heart to honouring the Little Way of childlike trust and simplicity. Nature teaches us how to reconnect with that flow of energy by grounding, protecting and safeguarding the soul from the onslaught of the anti Christ within. To pretend otherwise will leave the soul wide open to vitriolic attack of the most heinous kind.   
When I was first introduced to the Little Way of Saint Therese back in 1966, I was a young novice monk in training and aspects of the life did not resonate with what was being said in the book. I found it really challenging to break the habits of a lifetime of learning as I knew I was emotionally stuck but too scared to ask for help. Saint Therese’s account of how she found God as a child left me feeling overwhelmed by personal struggles about God as loving Father.

Throughout my life, there were so many occasions when I would have done anything to experience a loving gesture from my Dad. Sadly, the only closeness which I was ever allowed to cherish between father and son was towards the latter end of his life where he lay dying in a confused state. As soon as the ideal moment presented itself, my heart knew intuitively what I had to do to help release both our hearts from the disease of unforgiveness. This was achieved by anointing dad’s feet with the healing oils of Spikenard; the same oils that Mary Magdalene used on the feet of the Master Jesus, her beloved. I knew in my heart that finally, we both ‘struck gold’ in a dysfunctional father and son relationship torn by selfishness and the lack of love.

The Little Way of the Tau Community is only possible when we know how to love ourselves and then we are best placed to comprehend the love that God has for each individual heart. As a child of God, we accept that God is a loving Shepherd who cares for His sheep. Within the world famous 23rd Psalm, we have found the blueprint of the Little Way which invites every heart to ‘Come and See.’ ..................................  

The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yet, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever

When you embrace the Little Way of the Tau Community of Saint Francis you are surrendering your heart to Truth-God’s absolute Truth. The seven keys which form the Little Way have been divinely inspired for the modern day soul who seeks not academia but spiritual support to combat the onslaught of darkness which seeks to destroy our soul. Yes, we are guided here not to pretend but face reality by ensuring that we are ‘watchful and ready’ for when the Master comes to guide and support the weary heart in service.
A Spiritual Watering Hole where the soul is recharged and allowed to fly.
About the Tau Community of Saint Francis-an Interspiritual international lay monastic community for men and women:

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