Fr. Francis’ Reflections – July 2014


Embrace the poor Christ.

Look upon Him Who became contemptible for you,

and follow Him, making yourself contemptible in this world for Him.

… gaze, consider, contemplate desiring to imitate …

Who though more beautiful than the children of men became,

for your salvation, the lowest of men,

was despised, struck, scourged untold times

throughout His entire body,

and then died amid the suffering of the Cross.

(St. Clare of Assisi – Second Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)

Following are excerpts taken from The Romanticism of St. Francis by Father Cuthbert, O.F.M. Cap. ed.1924. Daily reflections are taken from Day by Day with by Pope John Paul II.

St. Clare of Assisi – III (continued)


The reward of (St. Clare’s) courage came to her when her own Rule, based upon that of the Friars Minor, was solemnly approved by the Holy See on the eve of her death, and the right of all Poor Clares to live in Franciscan poverty and to be united with the friars … – We all have the responsibility to bear witness to the truth.


In the first Franciscan days, the sense of the unity of their vocation (the three Orders) and of the fraternal relationship created by it had been a strong link binding this threefold family together. – The study of Sacred Scripture is prayer.


All Franciscans of whatever degree were one family or people set apart from all others but united among themselves in the following of the poor and humble life of Our Lord upon earth, and their dependence upon the higher superiors of the friars was the outward symbol and safeguard of this spiritual unity. – Faith is not a pretty garment for the time of childhood.


When one considers how the Poor Clares and the tertiaries and also the friars, who clung to the primitive life and poverty of the fraternity, cherished this unity of the Franciscan family … the feeling grows that there must have been some fundamental link between the sense of fraternal kinship and the simple poverty of the early Franciscans. – Faith is a gift of God, a current of light and strength that comes from Him and that must illumine and vitalize all sectors of life.


… the two ideas (fraternal kinship and simple poverty) were intimately woven together in the pure Franciscan ideal. The truth of the matter is that the original purpose of the Franciscan movement was to gather together all sorts and conditions of Catholic people in the faith and worship of evangelical poverty. – Faith must gradually become rooted in responsibility.


Some would be called “to leave all things and follow” Christ, others living in the world would yet be not of the world. But for all, the Franciscan vocation meant the gazing upon the vision of Jesus Christ in His earthly poverty and the endeavor to conform themselves to the vision they held. – Be prepared to encounter at times opposition, scorn, and derision.

St. Clare of Assisi – IV


(St. Clare’s) love of St. Francis and of poverty are incidents in that greater, more fundamental love with which she worshiped the Divine Spouse to Whom Francis had wedded her. – True disciples are not greater than their master.


Liberty of spirit is the mark of true Catholic piety. Without it devotion is a mere artificial growth … (The early Franciscans) develop in the sphere of their own vocation as a plant rooted in its proper soil and flourishing hardily and joyously amidst the breezes of heaven. – (True disciples’) crosses are like the passion and cross of Christ: mysterious source of fruitfulness.


The secret of (St. Clare’s) spiritual freedom lies in the simplicity with which she trusted herself to the guidance of that worshipful love which was the encompassing form of her character, to bring her to the Divine goal of her heart’s desire. – The man who does not understand the need to be converted is an unhappy man.


Undoubtedly, her life-long purity and singleness of aim secured to her a fuller measure of freedom, for to the innocent spiritual liberty comes as a childhood’s confidant … They who find their true desire are free. – Be converted!


What then was the true desire which gave such exquisite freedom to Clare? We may say at once that it was “the Poor Christ” of Francis’s vision. – We place ourselves before God (and pray): “Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your mercy; in Your great goodness blot out my sin…”


From the purely natural point of view, the most real thing in Clare’s experience was the worshipfulness of that high valor, gentleness, poor love, and vast pity which were the spiritual notes of the chivalric ideal, and it was as the supreme Exemplar of these…qualities that Our Lord revealed Himself to her as she listened to…St. Francis…- We must focus on ourselves, with the aid of that light which the Holy Spirit will not deny us, and delineate and separate the good and the evil in us.


(Jesus’) strength is greater than all power. His grace more gracious, His countenance more fair than all others. His love stands alone, exceeding all joys … Like a poor virgin take to heart the Poor Christ, look upon Him made full of contempt in this world for His sake. – We must not … deceive ourselves.


Tradition says that amongst all the flowers (Clare) loved more the violet, the rose, and the lily, because they seemed to her the flowers of humility, love, and purity. – In the Gospel there is an invitation to progress.


On a Christmas night when (Clare) was experiencing a sense of loneliness, because her sickness would not allow her to join her Sisters in the Christmas ceremonies she prayed to her Lord to comfort her, and thereupon was permitted to hear the wonderful music that was being sung in the Church of San Francesco … she saw too the manger of the Lord, the crib the friars had fashioned in the church. – Human life cannot be a state of stagnation.


One ceases to wonder at Clare’s tenacious clinging to the life of Franciscan poverty when one realizes the fullness of freedom of spiritual life with which it encompassed her. – The measure of man is God.


(As she lay dying, Clare said to Brother Rinaldo): Dearest brother, ever since that I knew the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, through His servant Francis, no suffering has troubled me, nom penance has been too hard, no illness too arduous. – The measure of things and events of the created world is man, but the measure of man is God.


Pope Innocent had come (to her dying bedside) and at her request had given Clare the last absolution, though he said he himself needed absolution more than she. – I wish to bring the youth of the whole world and the entire Church to Mary, who is the mother of the true love.


As the last moments drew near, Clare asked the friars to read aloud the Passion of our Lord. After that she was heard to murmur softly: Go forth without fear, for you have a good guide for your journey. Go forth, for He who created you, has sanctified you. Blessed be You, Lord, Who has created me. – (Mary) bears in herself an indestructible sign of never fading youth and beauty.


On the day after that of Blessed Lawrence, that most holy soul passed away … and her spirit soared happily heavenward. So in her dying as in her living, Clare’s is the spirit of light and beauty and love, in worship before the figure of the heavenly King Who on earth was “Christ the Poor”. – We must be mature personalities.


The part (Clare) took in the unbuilding of the Franciscan Order, puts her among the builders of the organized Catholic body…But greater…is the claim of that clear revelation of Catholic Faith and worship which her life gives to the world. – Our time demands serenity and courage to accept reality as it is.


(To the people, Clare) was a prophetess of the beauty of the Gospel message which St. Francis preached, not merely of its truth, but of its beauty. – The Eucharist is the most intimate and transforming encounter with Christ.


Truly the Franciscan movement would have been less inspiring had it lacked St. Clare. – Every encounter with Christ leaves deep marks.


Undoubtedly the gospel of Franciscan poverty acquired comliness and attraction from the personality of the Abbess of San Damiano, which no friar could have given it. – The most intimate and transforming encounter (with Christ) is the one that takes place at the table of the Eucharistic mystery….


To the eyes of Umbria and Italy at least she was a sublimation of the new womanhood of the romance, fashioned in love and joy and worship, bu to this she added the glory of a purity which compelled and justified the deepest reverence. – In the knowledge of Christ you have a key to the understanding of the needs of the world.


For not only did convents of Poor Clares spring up over all the land, but many women living in their homes put on the habit of the Clares and sought to live their life, and that the fervor of womankind turned the thoughts of men to the pure life seen in the spread of the Brothers of Penance – the Continenti … – Since (Christ) became one with us in all things but sin, your union with Jesus of Nazareth could never, and will never, be an obstacle to understanding and responding to the needs of the world.


The Continenti as they were frequently styled did so much to save Christian society in the thirteenth century from the invading secularism. – In the knowledge of Christ … you will also experience the power of Jesus.

The Story of the Friars – I


The history of the Franciscan friars during the first two centuries and more of their existence is emphatically the history of Christendom. There was no movement of vital interest during that period in which they had no part. – By the action of the holy Spirit the Church is built up day after day.


Theology, politics, art and the social condition of the people, all in some measure were touched by their influence, though their chief achievement was in the sphere of Catholic piety. – Divine law is the sole standard of human liberty and is given to us in the Gospel of Christ, the Gospel of Redemption.


The great feat of St. Francis and his followers was that they instinctively achieved a union between the new secular spirit of the time and the new spirit of piety …- Fidelity to the Gospel will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit, who guards the life-giving message to entrusted to the Church.


The essential character of this new piety lay in the exquisite apprehension of the humanity of Jesus Christ as the revelation of the Divine Truth…- It is the Holy Spirit who ensures the faithful transmission of the Gospel into the lives of all of us.

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