Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 5
Monday after 1st Sunday of Lent
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)
When Saint Francis encouraged the formation of the Third Order he recognised that many are called to serve God in the spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience in everyday life (rather than in a literal acceptance of these principles as in the vows of the Brothers and Sisters of the First and Second Orders). The Rule of the Third Order is intended to enable the duties and conditions of daily living to be carried out in this spirit.
From St Francis:
The Rule of the Lesser Brothers
NOTE: St Francis calls his friars, or brothers, ‘lesser’ to locate them in society among the little people, the poor and lowly, who were called ‘minores’ or ‘lesser ones’ in medieval Italy. The more affluent, or the nobility, were called ‘majores’ or ‘greater ones’.
In the name of the Lord begins the Life of the Lesser Brothers!
The Rule of the Lesser Brothers is this: to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of their own and in chastity (Rule of 1223, Chapter 1)
Poverty, Chastity and Obedience are watchwords for all those who would walk in the footsteps of Christ and are not only the preserve of those who live in monastery, convent or friary. Called the Evangelical Counsels they are a response to the baptismal vows we all make to fight valiantly against the world (poverty), the flesh (chastity) and the devil (obedience) and, lived well become a sure guide on the road home.
Francis recognised that not everyone can (nor is called to) physically renounce everything but also, in choosing to name his followers ‘lesser brothers’ he reminded us that sometimes renunciation alone is not a great cost. What some of us give up as a ‘discipline’ is the everyday lot of many in the world. After all my discipline of having less of the pleasures of life this Lent are as nothing compared to the lot of the malnourished child in a war-torn nation whose only drink is their tears…..
However it is not renunciation per se which will help speed our footsteps towards Easter this Lent. What will help us is a deeper encounter with these three areas of life. Richard Foster expressed this well when he renamed poverty, chastity and obedience as ‘Money, Sex and Power,’ in the title of one of his books.
Whatever station in life we find ourselves to be in every one of us has to work out our relationship to money, to sex and to power. Poor and rich alike are challenged by money. Those in intimate relationships and those living alone must live faithful chaste lives. All people need to choose between obeying the call of God or giving into the siren voice of selfishness.
The discipline of Lent is not about giving up for renunciations sake. Our disciplines must become tools of faithfulness, soul-building exercises to help us be transformed into the image of Christ which was first impressed on us at our baptism.
As Lent begins to take hold on your life use each moment of temptation, each call to service, as an opportunity to live out your baptism vows and, being transformed, become an eloquent witness to the presence of God in your life.
help us all to follow you
into the desert,
with you to fast,
denying false luxury,
refusing the tempting ways
the way of success at all costs,
the way of coercive persuasion.
help us to follow you.
(Worship in an Indian Context)
What one thing will help you develop a better attitude to:
The gift of your body?
Answering the call of God?
99 Words to Breathe:
Stay true to the voice within.
This voice beckons us at birth and bids us be unafraid of death.
It knows what is right and never bends to fear.
It informs our finest thinking and boldest decisions.
It is in tune with nature and the things of the spirit.
It speaks the truth when lies assault us.
It strengthens and softens our loving.
It encourages creation, play, laughter.
It whispers reminders of our humanity.
It celebrates our right choices.
It knows us well.
It is the guide we can trust.
counsellor and writer, founder director of London Lighthouse
former chief executive Volunteering England
‘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