Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 26
Thursday after 4th 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 Way of Service – Work (continued)
The chief form of service which we have to offer is to reflect the love of Christ, who, in his beauty and power, is the inspiration and joy of our lives.
From St Francis:
The Joy of St Francis
When the sweetest melody of sprit would flame up in his heart, he would release it by singing in French and the trickle of divine inspiration which his inner ear had caught would begin to overflow like a minstrel’s song.
At times, as I have seen with my own eyes, he would pick up a stick from the ground and, holding it in his left arm, would draw across it another stick bent by means of a string, as if he were playing the violin. Then pretending to play, he would sing in French the praises of the Lord. (Celano, Second Life, 127)
Keep me reasonably sweet;
I do not want to be a Saint – some of them are so hard to live with
– but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil.
So read some of the lines from what is often known as ‘A Seventeenth Century Nun’s Prayer’. Its provenance is uncertain and a few websites delight in picking the language to pieces and proclaim it to be a fraud. But wherever it comes from the sentiments it expresses are all too true! A sour old person is definitely one of the crowning works of the devil!
And it is quite sad that all too many Christians, who are supposed to be purveyors of the joy of the Lord, tend to be harbingers of gloom and sadness. It almost seems as if Christians are not allowed to celebrate their salvation – despite the exhortations to ‘rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice’ (Philippians 4.4). Some visitors to church might wonder if the Christian task was not so much to welcome people into heaven but frighten them away from hell!
This is one of the reasons why I am so attracted to the way Francis followed the footsteps of Christ. Francis seemed to possess, despite giving away everything to which he was entitled, a deep enduring joy which the worldly think only wealth can purchase. He was indeed a mirror of God’s love and it is a privilege and a challenge to see our chief form of service to be simply that of letting people know that we are loved by a generous God who freely bestows that same love on all creation.
In my previous parish each year between 20 and 30 couples come to tell each other, their family, their friends, and God of their love for each other. Weddings are very powerful moments in our common life and I often remind couples that, if they but let it, the energy of their love will transform the community in which they act out their love. But these are unnecessary words to them, their love, especially on their wedding day, shines so brightly that everyone hears the call to lead a more selfless life. In Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s words, love does indeed change everything.
I find it easier for me to reflect Christ’s love when I spend more time falling in love with Him. When I choose to spend time looking to Him as my inspiration. When I learn to run to his presence to find true joy. When I remember to look to Him to empower me in the journey. Then I cannot help but become a mirror of his love.
One day in Paradise we will stand before our Lord as the Bride of Christ and we will reflect His love for eternity. Why not start practising now?
A complete version of the ‘Nun’s Prayer’ is included at the foot of today’s reflection.
O Christ you are a bright flame before me
You are a guiding star above me
You are the light and love I see in others’ eyes
Keep me O Christ in a love that is tender
Keep me O Christ in a love that is true
Keep me O Christ in a love that is strong
Tonight, tomorrow and always.
What one situation in your daily life can be transformed by choosing to smile instead of giving in to a frown?
write a love letter to God.
sing God a love song
99 Words to Breathe:
Hey Jules, it’s Brian
i’m on a plane and it’s hijacked
it doesn’t look good
live your life the best you can, and
know that I love you and, no matter what,
i’ll see you again.
is happening i don’t think
i’m going to make it
I love you.
Laurie, I love you
I’m in the Trade Center
the building was hit by something
I don’t know
if I’m going to get out.
Lyzbeth, I love you a thousand times I need you
to be happy
Mommy, the building is on fire
I love you, Mommy
[here is my 99 word piece. my colleague who is a poet
janet r kircheimer and i talked about the essay i was trying
to write and nothing gelled until we listened to my chant of the
conversations from september 11. the melody is taken from
the chanting of the biblical book of lamentations traditionally
read on the day when the destruction of the temple in jerusalem
is remembered. janet and i worked together to transform this song
into a poem]
Irwin Kula – rabbi and writer, president Clal,
the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, New York
‘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
A Seventeenth Century Nun’s Prayer
Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will some day be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of other’s pains, but help me to endure them with patience.
I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint – some of them are so hard to live with – but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.