In a 13th century text called the Il Foretti (The Little Flowers), a story is told about St. Francis in which a brother friar came to him and asked, “Why after you? Why is the whole world coming after you, wanting to see you, to hear you, to follow you?” Some 800 years after the life of St. Francis, this question remains. What is it about this unpretentious figure from the early 13th century which continues to exert such a perennial fascination for Catholics and non-Catholics, believers and agnostics alike? What is it that has made Francis the subject of more books than any other saint? Why has he inspired artists, led ecologists, peace activists, and advocates for the poor to claim him as a patron? Why has he inspired countless tens of thousands of men and women to follow his Rule of Life in religious and secular communities? Continue reading
Happy Feast Day to all Franciscans and those Franciscan at heart!
Over time I have posted a number of articles about the life of St. Francis – one day I even got ambitious and created a page on this blog where all the posts can be found. I thought perhaps the Feast Day would be a good time to let people know. You can find all the posts collected here.
One day I will also be as motivated and collect all the posts on the Admonitions. Until then please use the WordPress search function to find them among all the other musings. They start on Oct 2, 2012
pax et bonum
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” (St. Augustine, Letter 18). At the root of Francis of Assisi’s on-going conversion was the movement towards a fuller realization of humility in his own life: from son of a privileged, wealthy merchant to a lesser brother following the footsteps of Christ. From one well-dressed and flamboyant as a young man to one who asked to be laid naked upon the ground at the time of his death. From one hiding from God, to one laid bare, knowing that what he was before God he was that and nothing more. Along the way he discovered and lived all the other virtues. Continue reading
“You are so judgmental!” That is one way to respond to someone offering some fraternal correction. Here’s another: “Who do you think you are?” Or how about, “You are you to admonish me, when….?” Not one of our more spiritual moments. Yet fraternal correction is listed among the spiritual works of Mercy (CCC 2247). St. Thomas Aquinas lists it in the Summa as a work of Charity: “fraternal correction properly so called, is directed to the amendment of the sinner. Now to do away with anyone’s evil is the same as to procure his good: and to procure a person’s good is an act of charity, whereby we wish and do our friend well” (II, IIae, 33.1). Continue reading
We all have moments when we can truly be described as fiddling, foolish, unimportant, incidental, inconsequential, inconsiderable, insignificant, or in other words, frivolous. Perhaps it is the way we take a break from the serious and demanding parts of our own lives. We seek a pause in life. And so from time to time we value the people in our lives that can provide that temporary comic relief. The royal courts of England employed court jesters for just such a task, but once the jester was done, the royal court returned to its business. Jesters disappeared when the Puritan Oliver Cromwell, no frivolity in that one, banned them in 1653. Continue reading
I mean, really… who doesn’t love a morsel of gossip? Gossip has a place in the world, right? Who doesn’t love to walk into a room, filled with laughter, have everyone catch sight of us, hear the laughter suddenly stop, and then watch the group disperse? OK, that is not so great, but how bad can gossip be? Romans 1:29 gives us an idea of the companions of gossip: “every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite.” Gossip is next on the list. Continue reading
In the Earlier Rule 14 writing about mission, St. Francis says that Franciscans should go through the world subject to all people. It is one of the many ways in which Francis indicated that humility was to be a key virtue of the brothers. St. Bonaventure wrote hold that humility is “the root and guardian of all the other virtues.” (Tree of Life, 5). Each in his own way was understanding the implications of God’s creative love. Continue reading
Each one of us is gifted and as St Paul instructs us, all the gifts are given in order to build up the community. Some receive gifts that play out in a very public setting before tremendous numbers of people. Certainly Rev. Billy Graham was so gifted. Some are gifted in ways that will never bring them before the public eye or even their own local community. They are said to “toil away in anonymity.” Anonymity? I guess it depends on who you want to watch. If you are striving to return your gifts to God, then an audience of One is quite sufficient.
Admonition Seventeen: The Humble Servant of God
1 Blessed is that servant who no more exalts himself over the good the Lord says or does through him than over what He says or does through another.
2 A person sins who wished to receive more from his neighbors than what he wished to give of himself to the Lord God.
An American tourist in Jerusalem met up with one of the Holy Land Custody friars. The friar offered to show him around the monastery of which he was a part. On their tour they came to the friar’s room; the tourist noticed no TV or radio, only one change of clothes, a towel and a blanket. He asked, “How do you live so simply?” The monk answered, “I noticed you have only enough things to fill a suitcase; why do you live so simply?” To which the tourist replied, “But I’m just a tourist, I’m only traveling through.” To which the friar said, “So am I, so am I.”
“Adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true” is the destination that Francis picked and then chose a road to journey there. On the journey he saw the God living and true in all creation.
Admonition Sixteen: Cleanness of Heart
1 Blessed are the clean in heart, for they will see God.
2 The truly clean of heart are those who look down on earthly things, seeks those of heaven, and, with a clean heart and spirit, never cease adoring and seeing the Lord God living and true.
The idea of peace in the Hebrew Bible is šālôm whose core meaning is “to be hale, whole, complete.” In one form or another the notions of wholeness, health, and completeness inform all the variants of the word. Peace is not simply the absence of war or conflict. Peace is a positive notion, a notion with its own goal and ends. The Jewish writers tended to use the term primarily for interpersonal or social relations where it comes very close to meaning “justice” and is connected to the covenant with God. Just as the covenant is gift, so too when justice is done it is seen as God’s gift to the people, and the prosperity (šālôm) comes to the people when they live faithfully under God’s covenant. Continue reading