Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 13
Wednesday after 2nd 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 Third Aim:
To live simply (continued)
We recognise that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God
From St Francis:
Helping Those in Need
Strip the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary and cart of its varied furnishings if you cannot otherwise satisfy one who is in need. Believe me, it is dearer to Mary that the Gospel of her Son be kept, though it means stripping her altar, than to see her altar ornamented and her Son neglected. (Celano, Second Life, 67)
I have, some may have noticed a surname that is not too well known (outside of Newcastle in Northumberland that is) and throughout my whole life I have found it, as many others with unfamiliar names, irritating to be always asked to spell my name and to have it mis-pronounced and mangled.
One of my ways of coping with this was to have to hand oodles of small sticky labels with my name and address on them so that, even if my name could not be spoken properly, at least it was spelt correctly.
This has led to a personal mania about labelling possessions. Maybe its roots where at boarding school were everyone wore identical clothing (we were only allowed one item of personal clothing – and that could only be worn on a Saturday evening) and everything had to be labelled. Being a military school of course names were dispensed with and I spent 3 years known by my locker number in the junior half of the boarding house (59 Collingwood) and 4 years in the senior dormitory (30 Collingwood).
I have been, and in some ways still am, fixated by possessions. I don’t think I have been possessed of an overabundance of ‘stuff’ yet the possessions I have had, in the words of Gollum, have been very ‘precious’. It is not the quality or quantity of our possessions which challenges the call to living simply but the fact that we believe the lie that we can somehow own anything at all. For this reason the Franciscan call is to ‘sit lightly to the things of this world’ remembering that our true inheritance is elsewhere. Rich and poor alike need to deal with their attitude to possessions.
Over the years the labels I stick and sew on my possessions have changed. Moving from ‘Andrew Dotchin’ to, on our marriage, ‘Andrew and Lesley-Anne Dotchin’, then as the children grew the labels read, ‘The Dotchin Family’ and, following the wonderful example of Brother Michael ssf, I’ve even tried ‘Used by the Dotchin Family’. It has been a constant struggle to see that all I have is ‘held in trust’. And this mania is not only about material goods but my family also who are now ‘possessed’ of my awkward surname – sorry guys!
In my Rule of Life part of my response to the call to simplicity reads ‘I will not label any of my possessions’. Not as easy for me as it sounds. This is especially so when lending something, perhaps a book or a CD, to a fellow pilgrim. All goes well until, after having a peek inside the fly leaf, they kindly hand it back to me and say ‘write your name in it so I know to give it back to you.’
What do you say?
Tell them you are trying to see your possessions as a divine trust and that all you have is theirs – and so embarrass them,
or smirk and polish-up your self-righteousness,
or say ‘no, you keep it’ and make it difficult for them to ever ask you for the use of anything again,
or in embarrassed silence scribble your name into something you had been trying to give away?
Living simply is not a simple task!
Nowadays I quietly hand over a business card – a kind of portable ‘label’ – for people to use as a bookmark. Yes, the name remains there but I do pray that the occasional one gets lost and a possession, that was never really mine to begin with, finds a home somewhere else.
O God, our Creator,
who gave us all that we are and have;
release us from self-love
to be able to share
what we are
what we know
what we have
with one another
and in the world which you love.
In the name of Christ, who makes this a possibility.
(Christian Conference of Asia)
Of my possessions, what do I consider to be held in trust for God?
Does this make me ‘use’ them differently?
Has this included my time?
99 Words to Breathe:
‘To walk by faith is to construct a beautiful dream and live it’
The greatest gifts of the human experience belonged to us as children: a sense of wonder, curiosity and determination. Later we experienced culture, ideals, and the expectations of modern society. Yet, how many rules and beliefs have become pieces of our identity?
Set the world back a pace. Remember to play, make yourself laugh, hang upside down, ask all kinds of questions, be irreverent and seek adventure. Reclaiming these gifts is like remembering a dream. Remember and then make up the parts that you’ve forgotten. Being authentic, living for the sake of life itself, is an act of faith.
Liz Wright – jazz singer and songwriter
‘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