Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 15
Friday 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 are concerned more for the generosity that gives all, rather than the value of poverty in itself. In this way we reflect in spirit the acceptance of Jesus’ challenge to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him.
From St Francis:
The Two Small Coins of St Francis
Christ’s Poor One, Francis, possessed nothing but two small coins (cf. Mark 12.42) which he could dispose of with largesse and charity: his body and his soul. But those two mites he offered to God continually, for love of Christ; he seemed always to be immolating his body with the rigour of fasting and his soul with the flame of desire: his body, a holocaust outside in the court of the temple; his soul, incense offered in the inner temple. (St Bonaventure, Major Life, 9:3)
If we see our possessions as ‘held in trust for God’ then poverty must assume a different place in our lives. Possessions become no longer things to be disposed of, so that we can follow Him along the way, but tools of the Gospel which we are given to help us to help others on the journey.
If we really believe that all we have is a gift from God then, knowing that our God is not only generous but also a careful steward of His creatures and His creation, we also know that whatever we hold in our hands is there for a reason. Our God may be profligate in His love and care for us but He is not a wastrel; whatever we are given is given so that His kingdom may go forward through us.
This makes things very different for me. All too easily I see MY possessions as God’s gift to ME rather than as a gift for those around me. I need to learn, not just with my property but with everything else I receive from the hands of the One who loves me best, that a gift remains a gift. Just because I may have more gifts than those around me does not make me better than any other of the children of God. If anything my possessions add a greater responsibility. Once again ’To those whom much has been given much is expected’.
It will be how we use these gifts which will either set us free or bind us in chains of selfishness. The lesson which needs to be learnt is that the more we hold on to our possessions the less we are able to hold on to Christ. It is possible to use the things we possess without them possessing us, but this only happens as we learn to give them away each day, just as our generous God gives us good gifts each and every day.
The story from the ‘Fioretti’ about perfect joy, (included at the end of this reflection) has for a long time been my watchword as to how to approach all good gifts around me. Francis is not called ‘God’s Fool’ for nothing – and this story reinforces that view! His actions call me to remember that just because I have some ‘stuff’ does not mean that I am particularly special. It reminds me that I have a divine responsibility to, like my Lord, become a generous giver.
Possessions are not mine to pore, hoard and, Gollum-like, lust over. They are given to me to give to others. They can become, if we but listen carefully to the call of the Gospel, no longer a hindrance to the journey but instead the means by which we come closer to the home for which we long.
O Heavenly Father,
I praise and thank you for all your goodness
and faithfulness throughout my life.
You have granted me many blessings.
Now let me accept tribulations from your hand.
You will not lay on me more than I can bear.
You make all things work together for good
For your children.
(Dietrich Bonhoeffer – 1906-1945)
List three possessions:-
One to give away
One to loan to another
One to use in the service of others
99 Words to Breathe:
‘When you know what you are doing, you can do what you want’
Moishe Feldenkrais (1904-1984)
How to know what you are doing?
– go slowly so as to feel more clearly
– engage your senses in all you do – look, listen, taste, feel
– learn to recognize when you are making unnecessary efforts
– make the process more important than the achievement of the goal
– discover new possibilities beyond the habitual
– pay attention to the movement of your breath
– find your way, not one that others have prescribed for you
– balance flexibility with stability; activity with stillness
– explore new movements!
Garet Newell – director, Feldenkrais International Training Centre
‘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
The Little Flowers of St Francis
CHAPTER VIII: HOW ST FRANCIS, WALKING ONE DAY WITH BROTHER LEO, EXPLAINED TO HIM WHAT THINGS ARE PERFECT JOY
One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”
A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.” St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.
And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, ‘Begone, miserable robbers! to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.
And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, ‘These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.
And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”