Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 16
Saturday 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 Three Ways of Service
Our desire is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, whom we serve in the three ways of Prayer, Study, and Work.
In the life of the Order as a whole these three ways must each find full and balanced expression, but it is not to be expected that all members devote themselves equally to each of them. Everyone’s service varies according to their abilities and circumstances, yet a member’s personal rule of life includes each of the three ways.
From St Francis:
The Beginning of St. Francis’s Conversion
One day, as usual, Francis was in his shop preoccupied with selling cloth when a beggar appeared asking alms for the love of God. Francis, deep in his dream of riches, ignored him.
Then, as the beggar shuffled away, the young Francis, touched by divine grace, began to reproach himself for what he had done, thinking: ‘If that poor man had asked you to contribute something in the name of some count or some great baron, you’d have accommodated him, for sure. Shouldn’t you have been even more eager to do so in the name of the King of Kings, the Lord of the Universe?’
And with that thought in mind, he promised himself from that moment on never to refuse a request made in the name of the Lord. Then he called the poor man back and gave him a handsome sum of money. (Anonymous of Perugia, 4)
Finding balance is always a very difficult thing to do especially if, like me, you are someone who never stands still long enough to see the damage you leave in your wake. Each of us needs to have a sense of rhythm and proportion in our journey. In the Third Order balance is sought through the services of prayer, study and work – Benedictines, on the other hand, replace study with rest, but somehow their rest is quite scholarly!
In the early days of our own Franciscan journey Lesley-Anne and I had very different rules about the amount of time we spent in prayer. For her the amount of time given to prayer was not as much time as I had available to me. Our Novice Mistress did not give me much space for spiritual pride though. She applauded Lesley-Anne, a working mother with three young children, for the time she was able to carve out for personal prayer and chastised me for not being more diligent! She reminded me forcefully that ‘The Offices of Obligation should not be seen as part of my personal prayers!’ She realised that, as I was a priest, listing Morning and Evening Prayer as part of my personal prayer was false, for me it is my work. It was an interesting journey to learn that, above the Daily Office of my ‘work’ I needed to explore times of prayer which I was not compelled to complete.
The same diligence needs to be observed in our attitude to Study and to Work. A pilgrim whose work involves Academic Study needs to find other things to enlighten their journey of faith. Likewise someone whose day to day work means being the hands and feet of Christ to the poor and rejected of the world needs to find additional means of acting out their faith.
We need all three, Prayer Study and Work, to prove ourselves to be true servants of Christ. Some will call us more than others. Some will excite us more than others. Some will consume more time than others. But, if we are to travel the quickest path home, we will need to ensure that each of them, however slight we may feel it to be, receives our attention.
Save us, Jesus, from hurrying away,
because we do not wish to help,
because we know not how to help,
because we dare not.
Inspire us to use our lives serving one another.
(A New Zealand Prayer Book)
How have I balanced these three areas in my life?
What one act of Prayer is my offering to God?
What one area of Study do I give to God?
What active work is the task to which God calls me?
99 Words to Breathe:
i became, of many generations, on a green island. A form of energy called human, i am complete when i exist simultaneously, equally balanced, in three different dimensions – material, spiritual and creative. It is part of my condition that achieving this balance is extremely difficult and the struggle to achieve it consumes my time.
My time exists between my past and my future – the ‘now’.
A feeling of emotion called love drives the combustion of this energy and is common to all three dimensions even though the dimensions are separate from each other.
In the now, love is all.
Peadar O Riada – 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