Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 3
Friday 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)
Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey he promises union with God.
The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people.
From St Francis:
Spouses and Brethren of Christ
We are his spouses when our faithful souls are wed to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. We are his brothers and sisters when we do the will of his Father who is in heaven. (Letter to all the Faithful, Second Version)
The Principles today are another call to give up – the call to surrender to God and to the service of God’s people.
The highlight of the Franciscan year for me is in October when every member of the community is given the opportunity to renew their profession vow. Each time it brings tears of joy to my eyes to say ‘I, Andrew, give myself to my Lord Jesus Christ for the rest of my life….’ Each year I have the privilege of remembering that I am called to give myself away.
All that has happened since my last renewal, be it good, ill or indifferent, is wrapped up in an opportunity to say ‘Yes’ again. This is a time when I can say ‘no’ to the times when I have chosen selfishness above community, when I have chosen to commit ‘suicide’ and take and live my own life instead of allowing myself to be ‘crucified’ and surrender my body and spirit to the service of others.
I know that I most often fall into sin (and even run towards it) when I find myself alone without others around me to support and encourage. I am always amazed how easy it still is to believe the lie that I can somehow live without others.
I tell myself that if I ask for help on the journey I am somehow a failure. Looking at the struggle of colleagues I see that I am not the only person who believes the lie of self-sufficiency; it seems to be one of the particular burdens of those who are called to positions of leadership within church and community.
I think I choose to tread the lonely path outside of community because I perversely believe that asking for help means I am somehow being unfaithful and, if I ask for support, I have not quite given myself away completely. All too often I seem to be obsessed with obeying ‘my’ vocation and forget that the call of God is into community.
It is the people who I am called to serve who are the owners of any vocation I may answer. After all ‘my’ vocation is God’s gift to them, it is simply my privilege to be the channel of God’s gift. I need constantly reminding that everything I have, including ‘my’ vocation belongs to them and to God.
The community I serve does not need me anywhere near as much as I need them. For without them I have no place where I can live out my faithfulness.
For this reason the Profession vow our Community includes the phrase ‘in company with my brothers and sisters….’
I am a fool if I think I can be faithful alone and outside of community. Yes, it is just vaguely possible to be a Christian without the support of those around us but it is oh so lonely and, when we are lonely, it is oh so easy to fall into sin.
Grant us a vision, Lord
To see what we can achieve
To reach out beyond ourselves
To share our lives with others
To stretch our capabilities
To increase our sense of purpose
To be aware of where we can help
To be sensitive to your Presence
To give heed to your constant call
List the communities to which you belong and say ‘thank you’ for each of them.min
Try to spend a say without using the words ‘my’ or ‘mine’
99 Words to Breathe:
99 WORDS FOR MY DARLING CHILDREN
What we know is ringed with darkness; God, however, sees it as light. Find the courage to trust this Reality; remember God every day. Strive to embrace all creation. If we are with God when all is well, He will be with us when life wounds. Seek what exalts you, and live ‘á toutes risques’, Life is a dream, but it is not our dream. All that happens to you is sent from God. Aspire to that state of bliss which inhabits all things. For ‘God is a beautiful being, and He loves beauty.’ Your true Self is God.
(John Taverner – musician and composer)
‘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