Who among us wants to be considered condescending? Merriam-Webster defines “condescending” as showing or characterized by a patronizing or superior attitude toward others. I suspect no one is soon volunteering. In the Franciscan tradition it is a good thing to be condescending or at least condescendere. St. Bonaventure wrote about the condescendere of God in the Incarnation of Jesus who “stepped down” from his divinity, took on our humanity, took off his cloak and put on a servant’s apron and washed our feet. It is from that “condescending” position we are called to reach up to our neighbors and serve them. Such is the posture of compassion.
Admonition Eighteen: Compassion for a Neighbor
1 Blessed in the person who supports his neighbor in his weakness as he would want to be supported were he in a similar situation.
2 Blessed is the servant who returns every good to the Lord God because whoever holds onto something for himself hides the money of his Lord God within himself, and what things he has will be taken away from him.
If this week’s readings contain any one warning about the human condition it is that too often we are concerned about honor. In the gospel account it is connected with desiring seats of honor. There is nothing wrong with honor or being honored; what is disordered is when a person seeks the bestowal of honor as a right, something earned, or demanded. Then honor is just the surface symptom of Pride – a sin as deadly as they come and as old as time. As Proverb 16 tells us, “Pride goes before disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Pr 16:18). Continue reading
You can hear the reasons from Pope Francis himself:
Sacred Heart parish here in Tampa has an unusual history. It was established in 1860 (modern by world standards, ancient by West Central Florida standards) with diocesan priests, but was lead by the Jesuits of the New Orleans province from 1888 until 2005. Their missionary, church planting, and pastoral work was pretty amazing. In 2005 they withdrew from the parish and pastoral leadership of the parish passed to the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province who remain to this day.
As a parishioner pointed out, are we perhaps the only parish who has a statue/altar for St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi – as well as the tradition of both august religious orders? Fun to ponder – but in any case we are proud of our Jesuit roots (Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – For the greater glory of God) and our Franciscan heritage (Deus Meus et Omnia – My God and my all)
Over the last several weeks we have been considering what awaited the men who came to join Francis of Assisi and this growing fraternity of believers seeking to follow Christ more fully in the world. We had mentioned there were no rules, regulations, or even a formation program; there was only Francis and the other brothers. But what drew the men to want to “come and see?” Undoubtedly, as today, a complex of reasons, but key among those reasons was Francis of Assisi’s reputation for holiness and miracles. Continue reading
As we noted in last week’s article, Francis expected his brothers to learn by imitation – and to understand that as Francis sought to imitate Christ, so too should the brothers. But in reality, the first generation of Assisi-area brothers simply did what Francis did: daily prayer, work at a local leprosarium, go to local churches to participate in Eucharist, eat, pray again, witness to the local Umbrian people near Assisi, and live a life in community. You have to remember this was all new. Prior to this “Franciscan moment” the spiritual journey of medieval people consisted of being a monk or cloistered nun behind the walls of the monastery, being a priest and living close to the sacraments and the Scriptures, or being a lay person and hoping the other groups were praying for you. And then along comes this different, new, intriguing way of being spiritual in the world. And it was not set down in writing; it did not come with instructions. But sometimes is borrowed from the past. Continue reading
Francis of Assisi by Cimbue
In the previous article we had left Francis in the spring of 1205, in his early 20’s, just released from a year as a prisoner of war, suffering severe physical effects and psychological burdens, that to the modern mind, fit the description of PTSD. He returned with compromised health, face drawn and sallow, digestion impaired, and was plagued with bouts of recurring fever. When he was out of bed he was listless and kept to the house. A biography written within two years of Francis’ death (by Thomas of Celano, 1C) records Francis’ convalescence from his imprisonment in Perugia as follows: “When he had recovered a little, he began to walk about through the house with the support of a cane… [and] one day, he went outside and began to gaze upon the surrounding countryside. But the beauty of the fields, the delight of the vineyards and whatever else was beautiful to see, could offer him no delight at all [and he] considered those who loved these things quite foolish.” (1C4) 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