Walking in the Footsteps of Christ – Day 28
Saturday 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 First Note – Humility
Always keep before you the example of Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and who, on the last night of his life, humbly washed his disciples’ feet, we likewise seek to serve one another with humility.
From St Francis:
Patience and Humility
Where there is the fear of the Lord to guard the house, there the enemy cannot find a way to enter (cf Luke 11.21)
Where there is poverty and joy, there is neither cupidity nor avarice.
Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor worry.
In Rumer Godden’s book about life in a Benedictine Abbey ‘In This House of Brede’ there is a passage which describes a Chapter of Faults. This is an occasion in the life of a religious community when the whole family gathers together, often in a Chapter House, and the nuns are called upon to admit to any sins they may have committed against the community. The book recounts a few humorous incidents in the common life but it is the words of a lay sister which catches my heart each time I read it.
A traditional Benedictine Abbey has two sorts of nun. Choir Nuns, who give themselves to singing the complicated words of the Divine Office (originally in Latin) spending large amounts of time in prayer – the Mary of Bethany of the Religious Life if you will. Lay Sisters are their counterpoint; women who have found their vocation in the service of others, spending less time in prayer they do however spend more time on their knees cleaning and scrubbing the floor – Martha of Bethany.
In the Chapter of Faults a Lay Sister stands in front of the gathered community to say ‘I accuse myself of having committed an act of charity in such a way as to never be asked again’. These are understandable words from someone whose vocation in life is to be forever at the beck and call of others. I am certain many a nun has felt herself ‘put upon’ by the demands of the rest of the community. The fictional nun however has understood the true secret of service. She shows us that it is not service itself that is redemptive but it is only when ‘we seek to serve one another with humility’ that the miracle of self-sacrifice is brought to birth.
There are many ways of serving.
We serve out of a sense of duty.
We serve because we are paid to serve.
We serve because no one else has the ability to undertake the task.
We serve because everyone else refuses to serve.
We serve because we are angry at those who will not serve others……
Service, though good, can so easily become a slippery path into sin!
No act of service should be belittled but service with humility is the jewel to which we should aspire.
If we live in a spirit of humility our service comes with hands ready to work for God and God’s people and hearts are full of nothing save love. We should desire to have a heart ever open to be filled by Him and His love for everyone no matter which task it is to which we are called. In this way our acts of service, led by humility, become holy.
anoint the wounds
of my spirit
with the balm
pour the oil
of your calm
on the waters
of my heart
take the squeal
from the wheels
of my passion
that the power
of your tenderness
the way I love
that the tedium
in the risk
and the reaching
to a world
that must wound
may be kindled
to a blaze
that the grain
may fall gladly
to burst in the ground
– and the harvest abound.
(Ralph Wright OSB)
In which ways have I been a humble servant?
99 Words to Breathe:
There is an old dog slowly dying in this house, and I am absorbed in his going.
He’s a tired old boy now and his thin flanks shiver with palsy. But he lies quietly, looking at the wall, and I call what I see in his milky old eyes patience and acceptance.
Let me learn from you again! I whisper to him.
Let me know how to die as you do!
He makes a gentle movement with his floppy tail to send me loving greetings from wherever he is in his head.
He was always a most courteous dog.
Nuala O’Faolain – journalist, writer
‘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