June 4, 2017
Today’s message is more of an announcement/lecture than a sermon. So, Yes Abbot Gentzsch, it is long intentionally.
I wasn’t sure what message I wanted to have today. But it soon came to mind when I was out running on Thursday. As some of you know, I used to be an avid runner about 15 years ago and then back surgery happened. I was advised by the doctor not to jog anymore but take up yoga or tennis. But frankly yoga just didn’t seem to be my thing - still isn’t. Maybe it hasn’t been presented in a way that appeals to me possibly. Always loved tennis, but I was horrible at it and I couldn’t help but wonder why the doctor would tell me to stop running to play tennis which is just as jarring on the body. However, be that as it may, about a month ago I decided I needed to get back into running, so I have.
Running for me is always been something more than just the physical benefits it brings. It always used to be one of my best times for inspiration, because running was more like a meditation for me. When I ran, issues and problems seem to melt into understanding and a sense of letting go would take over. I felt that during my runs it was when the Holy Spirit seemed to connect with me the most. It was like I was running through ancient Jerusalem, and our Blessed Lord ran beside me.
Since being laid off from my secular career, I have slowly managed to get myself back into what I am going to call “spiritual sanity.” My secular career would usually be 60 to 72 hours worth of work a week, which of course did not translate for a lot of time for church. And as some of you heard me say recently, I haven’t the faintest idea how I did it all, because looking on what I’m doing now - doing church work virtually all day every day - and I’m still behind on projects. So I have actually no clue how I used to do it when I was away from home 60 - 72 hours week.
However, losing my secular career, although while certainly not a financial benefit, it has afforded me the time to explore what my life has become. It has helped me to sit back and look at where I am now, and where I was 16 years ago before coming to California. I remember my days in Louisiana not being nearly as stressful in my career, nor taking nearly as much time away from my life. My prayer life was so important to me then, and I spent a lot of time in it.
As the years have rolled by, I have severely chastised myself for allowing my spiritual life to somewhat become stagnant. My prayer life was virtually nothing but Sundays and an occasional prayer or two during the week. This bothered me a great deal; and somehow I suspect it hurt the Holy Spirit also.
To reveal little bit about how I became a priest briefly, without going into too many to specifics, I remember vividly God communicating to me. Shortly before starting seminary, I had been craving something in my life for a long time, but the good Lord told me that if I wanted this particular prayer answered as requested, I needed to become a priest as my part of the “deal”. And the good Lord kept His part of the promise, and I did end up as a priest and my petition was also answered as He promised.
So my point to this part of the missive, is that I not only became a priest, but a few years later after doing so, I moved here to California. I was asked to come and take over a small chapel and its ministry. I wasn’t given any grandiose ideas that it was some sort of great Gothic cathedral or anything of this nature, so I had no real vision in my mind, so I wasn’t disappointed when I got here. I merely took how quickly my house sold as a sign that God wanted me to do this. I told the good Lord, if You want me to go, then sell my house. And it was one week later.
And so jumping forward to today, as much as it stresses me that I am no longer working, I really feel very deep down, that the good Lord’s hand is in this. As some of you know, I really hated my job I had, so I was kind of relieved when I was laid off. And I have been praying for some change to be brought my way anyway. I have been fortunate over the years that I’ve never had to actually search for a job; they always came to me. (Obviously I’d like that to happen again but one cannot base their life on this, so certainly I am looking.) But my point is this, 3 or 4 years ago I had started praying in earnest for some sort of job change to come my way. I work so much, that given those number of hours I worked plus trying to keep some semblance of ministry going on at St. Francis, as well as trying to find a little bit of rest for my sanity - it left very little time for me to actually go searching for a job, though admittedly I have many trepidations about doing anyway.
So, I believe 150% that this was God’s way of saying I was working too much for the wrong thing. I feel within my heart that this was God’s way of answering my prayer, but also because He wanted me to focus more on the church especially while we seem to be getting a little more activity. It wasn’t quite the answer in the way I was hoping for, but in some way I feel confident that it’s the answer I needed. I trust in and believe the Lord works in His own time. But in the meantime, I cannot tell you with words the amount of confidence I have and inspiration from the Holy Spirit that all of this is intentional.
Yes the topic of selling the rectory and the church has come up in a few conversations that we’ve had amongst ourselves and with the board of vestry as of late; and though at times my fears tell me I probably should, I know that is not what the good Lord wants me to do right now.
Yes, all this is leading somewhere.
So anyway, as I was jogging Thursday, my sermon came to me. As some of you know, Ramon has been asking me, for some years now, to form a Third Order under my authority. It was all Ramon’s idea, and I was certainly enthusiastic about it, but I never seemed to have time to sit down and really think about it. (Not that I actually needed to do anything anyway, because Ramon has done almost all of the work. These conversations for a Third Order have started as far back as 2012. And Joe, after expressing to him my mutual desire with Ramon’s to one day start this Order, he expressed his interest in it as well; and that was back in 2014. Seems like just yesterday that Joe started coming to our church, so it shows you how I’ve managed to lose track of things and especially our ministry here at St. Francis.
As we heard in today’s Gospel, Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His Apostles. He gave them great powers, as it were. A bishop acts as Christ’s representative acting as a successor to one of the Apostles. In such, he is meant to be the mystical and spiritual embodiment and presence to the flock assigned to him. So, frankly, given my situation that I have just related to you, I would not have had the energy to be the embodied force creating a Third Order of this kind and what it needed, even if I were not the one doing the “work” as it were, it would take spiritual energy that I wasn’t creating.
So the past few weeks, Ramon has brought up the topic again. It’s interesting that he brought up the topic during a couple of key things.
First, we were in the middle of the discussion on how I had expressed that I wished I could retire from secular work and become strictly just a priest and grow St. Francis, because I feel the Universal Catholic Church has so much to offer to the world today. The world around us feels like it’s almost caving in upon us. After being laid off, I decided to try and pick up some projects that I had ideas on or started typing out for the church. It was then that I discovered that I had so many grandiose ideas; so many that I had started on or at least wrote some notes on what I wanted to do, things I felt we really needed and the lack thereof which I thought was holding us back, but because of my secular career I had absolutely no time to do it. In fact, it was actually frightening how far behind I had gotten on so many things, so many projects, so many promised ministries. And it was thus that I had woke up and realized, that I still haven’t the faintest idea how I managed to keep St. Francis going and work that job I had. It was during this conversation that Ramon, in his usual optimistic manner, said that he believed we would get there and that he thought now was probably a good time to seriously start getting the Order going. He truly felt that this was like a nudging of the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t argue, because it seemed to be complying with what I’ve just described to you.
Secondly, Ramon’s mother-in-law passed away. And of course during this period of time, the last thing I wanted Ramon to be worrying about was the Third Order. And I told him so. Of course, he took a few weeks to grieve with his family as is most appropriate. But, around the time of her funeral, he picked up on organizing the Order again with fury. In some ways I wonder if the Holy Spirit didn’t use his situation to also motivate him as well. Now I don’t mean that the Holy Spirit intentionally had arranged for his mother-in-law to pass away and somehow push Ramon into action – of course not - but merely that in God’s wisdom it did happen, so therefore the Holy Spirit determined that it might be a way to help Ramon in his grieving process. Now I could be wrong, of course, and I frequently am, but that’s what I perceive has been happening the past two weeks.
I know, I know. I am getting there. An occasional long sermon is good for the soul.
So with that, here we are on Whitsunday. The day of Pentecost. So, on Thursday, I’m out running and the Holy Spirit is talking to me. And I came to believe that today would be the best day to make a “formal” announcement creating this Third Order. And so we shall.
The Third Order’s name will be the: Knights of Christ and the Temple. The Patron saint will be Our Lady Mary, under a new title, via my authority, as Our Lady of the Knights of Christ and the Temple! I know she has so many titles already, but it was time our denomination gave her one under our own charter. (The beauty of being a bishop is we get to create these wonderful things!!) I was actually quite surprised when Ramon said he wanted Our Lady as the Order’s patron, but I was very pleased! Of course, we are taking some of this from the Knights Templar, they were Franciscans after all, so we have St. Francis helping us to boot! Woo Hoo!
Obviously I don’t have enough time here, and I’ve already rambled on a lot (I can see Abbot Gentzsch fidgeting over there!), so I can’t give you all the details of the order, why we chose the name we did, specific rules and expectations and a plethora of other things; but I can give you some background.
This Order is intended to be a “brotherhood” of men and women who come together to explore mystical, spiritual, esoteric, ways and means in life. A support group, soldier in arms, or fraternity of sorts. Similar to monasticism, they will be united to each other in prayer and meditation. With discipline of daily prayer, meditation and contemplation with some sets of mandatory prayers.
In John 21:25, it says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” We all know of larger libraries, and of a very much larger electronic storing systems, then anything a first century author could’ve imagined. Even if it might be technically true that every single deed Jesus ever did could be written down, and that the books though numerous, would ultimately be finite in number, nevertheless the point remains; the world would not be able to contain them. They would be too explosive. It would be like trying to play a wonderful symphony on a broken piano. It would be like trying to serve a gourmet meal at a snack bar. It would be like God’s breath inside an ordinary human being.
And my point is this, from the mystical and spiritual realm from our omnipotent creator God, there is far more to understand, know, explain and articulate, that it’s nearly impossible to understand it all. By creating an order of this nature we are effectively creating a venue for Christians to come together and open themselves up to the mystical nature of the Holy Spirit.
Primarily the order will be for prayer, much like monks in a monastery or nuns in the convent; but also the order will be for exploring anything spiritual, mystical, theosophical, theoretical, or theological openly. For all of these things in some different ways can lead us to God. There is actually no way we could possibly explore all these things merely on Sunday mornings at Mass. The church needs a venue where this can be done and be done freely.
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.”
Obviously, as a Liberal Catholic Rite church, we are open to a broad number of learnings and expressions of faith that some denominations would either not allow at all, or would frown upon. We on the other hand, have our belief in Freedom of Thought, and as such, feel there are many avenues that one can communicate and commune with our divine Lord. Esoteric training and meditation all with a Christian edge, will be presented through the Order.
An opening to inner mystical experiences. Christian enlightenment. Opening ourselves to secret teachings as well as orthodox. Opening ourselves to Sophia – Wisdom – The Holy Spirit. Not the Gnostic god Sophia, but Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) of God. Will all be offered and possibly explored with openness. I, acting as the Grand Master of the Order, will ensure that we keep these experiences grounded as Christians and from straying into negative aspects of the spiritual world.
I liken the new Order similar to a few things some of you may have heard of before.
One, is the Catholic Charismatic Movement. This movement, though Roman Catholics would cringe at hearing me say such a thing, has many similarities to the fundamental and evangelical type churches, because of its big emphasis on having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. This is just not something that has been common as a description for Catholics over the years; a personal relationship with Jesus. It was always something you heard in other churches; but as of late that is not the case. But, I get a little ahead of myself.
Let’s have a little more background information on some things this Order will emulate, to some degree, and where it is hoped it will go. (I might get some of the intended structure and information slightly off from all that Ramon is hoping for, so Mia Culpa if I goof some of this up. But, it’s his fault. He wanted me to be the Grand Master of the Order, so here you have it.) Some of what I intend for the Order is to emulate two organizations that some of you are probably very familiar with already.
Opus Dei was founded by a Catholic priest, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, on 2 October 1928 in Madrid, Spain. Throughout his life, Escrivá held that the founding of Opus Dei had a “supernatural character.” Opus Dei's mission is a way of helping ordinary Christians "to understand that their life... is a way of holiness and evangelization... And to those who grasp this ideal of holiness, the work offers the spiritual assistance and training they need to put it into practice.” Opus Dei was made into a personal prelature. This means that Opus Dei is part of the Roman Catholic Church, and the apostolate of the members falls under the direct jurisdiction of the Prelate (Bishop) of Opus Dei wherever they are. (Apostolate - The work of an apostle, not only of the first followers of Christ but of all the faithful who carry on the original mission entrusted by the Savior to the twelve to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). The apostolate belongs essentially to the order of grace. Its purpose is not temporal welfare, however noble, but to bring people to the knowledge and love of Christ and, through obedience to his teaching, help them attain life everlasting.)
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon's Temple, the Knights Templar, or simply as Templars, was a Catholic military order recognized in 1139 by Pope Innocent II. The order was founded in 1119 and active from about 1129 to 1312.
The order, which was among the wealthiest and most powerful, became a favored charity throughout Christendom and grew rapidly in membership and power. They were prominent in Christian finance. Templar knights, in their distinctive white mantles with a red cross, were among the most skilled fighting units of the Crusades.
The Templars being closely tied to the Crusades; is an aspect we will in not emulate at all. Rumors about the Templars' secret initiation ceremony created distrust, and King Philip IV of France – deeply in debt to the Order of Knights – took advantage of the situation to gain control over them. In 1307, he had many of the order's members in France arrested, tortured into giving false confessions, and burned at the stake. Pope Clement V disbanded the order in 1312 but mostly under pressure from King Philip.
Speculation, legend, and legacy through the ages has plagued the Knights. Legends insist that the Knights were involved esoteric elements and secret rituals. As such, I think it obvious that they chose to be known as the Order of Solomon’s Temple, given Solomon is said to have received a ring directly from God. This ring variously gave Solomon the power to command good and evil spirits, or to speak with animals. Due to the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, his signet ring, or its supposed design, came to be seen as an amulet or talisman. If given to him by God, it would seem apparent that not all that is esoteric or mystical is considered to be bad.
However, we are intending that Knights of Christ and Temple, be of a similar nature. Now, I too, like Opus Dei’s founder, think our Order also will have a “supernatural character”, in that explains why we are starting on the day of Pentecost. Our Order too, for those who choose to join, will hopefully find ways of holiness, evangelization, grasp an ideal of holiness, and work to offer spiritual assistance.
Additionally, like Opus Dei, it will be an Order to meet once or twice a month, not only to discuss the aforementioned spiritual paths, but especially as a group devoted heavily in prayer. As a brotherhood of men and women, this group will be expected to focus energies to the wellbeing of all members of the Order; special prayers for the Grand Master for his needs and so he may help to keep them “safe”; for the needs of the home parish church (later as we grow, for the individual chapter of the order when more than one may exist) and its members and clergy; for our Presiding Bishop; and for the needs of the world that is in need of a cure from negative forces.
The Knights of Christ and the Temple will not be a militant force such as they were in that age, or as government militia are today. We are not being formed for that at all. We have no agenda to infiltrate Islamic faiths or any other religion for that matter, nor to “release them from the chains of their heresies” to quote a source that will remain nameless. We are not in a battle to undo other religions; we seek only to better our fellow “knights” and to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ; if it leads to conversion, great, but this is not our main course of intention.
We will be mystical knights from a spiritual sense, however, and will fight the forces of negativity that are plaguing our culture which seem to be gaining far too much hold on our souls. We will therefore be a “spiritual” militia in a sense that the members will be expected to adhere to a disciplined prayer life and will include some meditations directed to this end.
Having Our Lady Mary as patron of the Order is of great value, because as we know from her apparitions, she always speaks of constant and fervent prayer. I find great value in the Rosary, as many of you know. The Rosary can very much be a contemplative type of prayer. For those who have studied, practiced and mastered the Rosary, I will tell you that enough cannot be said of its spiritual value and rewards from calling on Our Blessed Lady in the Rosary. When you have your mind and soul in the right place, and let go and let Mary in, you will awaken a contemplative conscience that will be of great benefit to you. (At least now you know why I collect rosary beads – I cannot get enough of the prayer. Something my job kind of crushed, that I am striving to get back to is frequent Rosary recitations.)
Now contemplative and centering prayer can be very hard to master. I am very devoted to both, but I am not a good teacher of it. We attempted Centering Prayer a few years ago here, and it did not go well. I guess I take too much for granted that some of the details will be fill themselves in, and thus those I try to teach it to do not get the full benefit from it or going deeply enough to better understand and experience it. Hence, one unintentionally close off the Holy Spirit from entering their sacred place – their soul. So, one of my goals – and I gather it is one of Ramon’s also from what he has communicated – is that those who are part of the Order, and thus as part of this community, will endeavor to learn a deeper form of prayer.
We have a humble website working – that is a work in progress also. I encourage everyone to visit it. We will provide links to such from our Chapel website as well as from our St. Francis blog on Facebook. We are looking for members who want to be a part of such a community, but also for some who are willing to help the order grow to be an instrument for others on their Sojourn to better understanding and experiencing of our Lord.
I want to close this by reading to you a section from St. Faustina’s diary. I read it yesterday and it resonated with me and gave me a feeling that this Order will be good for us – and so I hope. It speaks a message of humility that I want to impose on the members of the Order.
I asked the Lord today that He might deign to teach me about the interior life, because of myself I can neither understand nor conceive anything perfectly. The Lord answered me, ‘I was your Teacher, I am and I will be; strive to make your heart like unto My humble and gentle Heart. Never claim your rights. Bear with great calm and patience everything that befalls you. Do not defend yourself when you are put to shame, though innocent. Let others triumph. Do not stop being good when you notice that your goodness is being abused. I Myself will speak up for you when it is necessary. Be grateful for the smallest of My graces, because your gratitude compels Me to grant you new graces.’
Let us pray.
Father God, we are embarking on a new ministry and we beg Your blessing for it. There is so much more to Your majesty than the mind of man can take in, yet the average man attempts to take so little of it. Let this ministry open minds to Your love and mercy and be open to Your voice.
The Knights of Christ and the Temple aims to open our hearts and minds to You, Dear Father, in mystical ways and as such, to be given spiritual inspiration and enlightenment. We ask that You infuse this Order with Your blessings and speak to our souls that are so in need of You. Let the Esoteric forces of good permeate the Order with great urgency as Your Holy Spirit did upon the Apostles and Our Lady Mary. Let us receive Your power to do so much more in Your name.
Our Lady of the Knights of Christ and the Temple, as you have spoken in your apparitions to your children on earth in previous times, we ask that you speak to us in this Order that we put under your direct protection and guidance. As your children, thru Christ your son, we ask that you bless us with your maternal care and protection from the wiles of evil plaguing our culture today. We ask that you give us inspiration to pray continually and at all times.
St. Francis, as you gave voice and inspiration to the Knights Templar, we ask you to do so to our Knights here now.
We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.