Walking in the Footsteps of Christ
Day 2 – Thursday after Ash Wednesday
A Lenten Journey with the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis
These Reflections which take the Rule of the Third Order as their springboard, were originally published in Lent 2012 are being republished during Easter 2020 as a way of deepening our faith during the Covid19 pandemic which is affecting the whole world
From the Principles:
The Object (continued)
By the example of his own sacrifice, Jesus reveals the secret of bearing fruit. In surrendering himself to death, he becomes the source of new life. Lifted from the earth on the cross, he draws all people to himself. Clinging to life causes life to decay; the life that is freely given is eternal.
From St Francis:
St Francis’s faith in Churches
The Lord gave me such faith in Churches that I used to simply pray these words: ‘We adore you, Lord Jesus Christ, in all your churches in the whole world, and we bless you because through your holy cross you have redeemed the world.’ (The Testament of Francis)
Do you see churches as places of refuge? Buildings in which you find security and comfort? A haven and a shelter from the storms of life?
For me that has often been the case and in my mind’s eye I picture several precious places where I have stopped along my journey for rest and to find the strength to live the life further.
The churches of Holy Island, a Baptist church in Fareham, an Anglican church in Cape town but above all the Chapel at my boarding school in Holbrook where a caring chaplain (now a brother with me in the Franciscan community) and a wise house master allowed a confused adolescent to sneak out of the dormitory in the depths of the night, let himself in to Chapel and spend hours weeping at the foot of the cross until he found peace.
Like Francis, it is the crosses inside churches which remind me of the prayers of generations inside those buildings. Unlike Francis, I have not heard Christ speak from the cross – though like my boyhood hero Don Camillo I have poured out many words in front of crosses throughout the world.
Time in front of a cross is precious, be it a plain cross empty of everything except the resurrection, a Crucifix wreathed in pain and sacrificial love, or a Christus Rex foretelling future triumph, all crosses remind me of the fact that life follows death.
In this Lenten journey of ‘losing my grip’ it is very often the life which I have so very carefully carved out for myself which heralds my own decay. When I finally learn to let go and put that life to death then I will begin to understand that redemption is possible. And to that end I will continue to ‘Cherish the Old Rugged Cross’ and learn to lay all my trophies at his broken feet. If I am going to cling to one thing this Lent it will be to the Cross.
We cannot measure how you heal
Or answer every sufferer’s prayer,
Yet we believe your grace responds
Where faith and doubt unite to care.
Your hands, though bloodied on the cross
Survive to hold and heal and warn,
To carry all through death to life
And cradle children yet unborn.
(John L. Bell and Graham Maule)
Find the words to the hymn ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and make a prayer of them.
Choose one cross to ‘cherish’ during this Lent as a sign of your commitment to giving your own life away.
Make a habit of using Francis prayer ‘We adore you Lord Jesus Christ….’ When entering a church
99 Words to Breathe:
I held my mother’s hand as she lay dying
And felt something moving, at last, in my heart.
It was so slow and yet time was flying,
It was the end and the time to start.
As she faded I was longing to be heard;
It was stronger than familiar skin, roses or snow
This desire to find the only, the perfect word.
I tried to explain and she said: I know.
I washed her, saying, I love you so much.
I love you so much. She said it too.
Soon after that, silence, and the language of touch.
(Sally Potter – film-maker)
‘The Principles’ are from the Rule of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis – this version amended for corporate reading by Andrew Dotchin
‘The Words of Francis’ are from ‘Through the Year with Francis of Assisi’ selected and translated by Murray Bodo – copyright © Collins Fount 1988
Prayers are from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin – copyright © Zondervan 1996
‘You have breath for no more than 99 Words. What would they be?’ were collected by Liz Gray – copyright © DLT 2011
These Reflections, ‘Walking in the Footsteps of Christ’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2020 and may be reproduced without charge on condition that the source is acknowledged