Fr. Francis’ Reflections – August 2014

August 2014

(St. Francis of Assisi)

O truly the most Christian of men,

who strove by perfect imitation to be conformed

while living to Christ living, dying to Christ dying,

and dead to Christ dead,

and deserved to be adorned with an expressed likeness!

(Your) most holy soul was released from the flesh

and absorbed into the abyss of divine light …

You were borne aloft straight to heaven …

(you) merited to enter the place of light and peace

where (you) rest with Christ forever.

(Pray for your family on earth

that we may share your life with God one day.)

(Major Legend by St. Bonaventure, chapter 14 – adapted)

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.

The Story of the Friars

1

For three years…Francis had been living a life of strict poverty, working with his hands and begging his bread. He had run the gauntlet of ridicule and now by sheer force of character and his evident sincerity, was winning the respect of his fellow citizens. – As soon as the Christian becomes aware of his supernatural vocation, he welcomes the mystery of God’s coming to his own soul.

2

One day hearing Mass when the words of the Gospel fell upon his ears…He at once cast aside his shoes and went forth barefooted and as he met people on the road, he began to admonish them to love God and save their souls. Thus to the life of poverty was added the apostolate. – The stable of Bethlehem is the primary place of man’s solidarity…chiefly with those for whom “there is no room in the inn”.

3

It is characteristic if St. Francis and the early Franciscan movement that these first friars took the words of the Gospel literally and without hesitation acted upon them…They went to the Pope to seek his approbation of their mode of life, (and) they presented for his approval a Rule which was little else than a few excerpts from the Gospel itself. – The most dangerous temptation is the one that says: “Sin does not exist”.

4

The first friars could hardly be said to have ant proper home; Rivo Torto was but a temporary shelter, the Portiuncula was their meeting-place and heir retreat when they returned from their journeys…The wide world was their cloister. – Truth is a right of man.

5

As is well known, the fraternity increased in numbers with marvelous rapidity. Within ten years after Innocent III had given his approval of the Rule, a Chapter was held at which five thousand friars assembled. – When God was made man, all of us were grasped by the time of salvation.

6

The idyllic days had passed into the dramatic, and the life lifted up above the world into the pure ideal was becoming more conscious of its relationships with the world…It seems to be a law of life that the ideal must descend into the earth in order to raise the earth up towards itself, and in the process much that is beautiful in the pure ideal is inevitably lost to sight. – Christmas…reveals to us the love of God and makes us feel the presence of Jesus with all.

7

At first the personality of Francis was deemed a sufficient interpretation of the friars’ ideal, but with the growth of the fraternity and the scattering abroad of the brethren there came the need of a more complex organization and a less personal government. – In Confession there is mercy not condemnation.

8

(Francis) had thrown open the fraternity to all sorts and conditions of men. The only demand he made upon them was that they repent of there sins and be willing to follow Christ in poverty…For the chief part the friars were ordinary mortals aspiring to a religious life and won over by the religious enthusiasm created by the Franciscan preaching…- The confessionals of the world…do not speak of God’s severity but rather of his merciful goodness.

9

The fundamental law, as it stands revealed in the life of St. Francis himself, was that the Friars Minor should be poor men, and share in the poverty of the multitude, thus imitating Jesus Christ Who in His earthly life made Himself one with the poor in their temporal condition. – As many as approach the confessional…encounter the joy and serenity of conscience.

10

The singing of hymns in the vernacular entered largely into the apostolate of the friars. Again the tradition, as far as the Franciscans were concerned, began with Francis. … Towards the end of his life (Francis) wished to send forth Fra Pacifico, the poet-laureate, with other friars, to go through the world preaching and singing the “Praises of the Lord”. – Thanks to a Baby without a house, there is a house for man.

11

First they were to sing, then one of them was to preach. The “Praises of the Lord” in this case seems to have been the “Canticle of Brother Sun”, for which Sty. Francis had himself arranged the melody. Thus were the Franciscans disposed by the example of their founder, to make their own the popular “Laudi” or vernacular hymns which afterward entered so deeply the religious life of Umbria. – All who turn to that baby (of Bethlehem) with faith and with their heart experience a special nostalgia for their home.

12

The dominant themes of the religious singers of this period are the love which should unite the Christian soul to Jesus Christ because His love for us, especially as manifested in His Incarnation and Passion, and the sorrow for man’s forgetfulness of this redeeming love…- God comes for man, for a communion with man.

13

(The Franciscan preachers) were above all else heralds of the Divine Love and Mercy which Jesus Christ brought mankind in His coming upon earth and of that penitent sorrow which purges the soul from sin. – Jesus goes before us.

14

(The Franciscan preachers’) purpose was strictly practical: to persuade men to cast off evil habits and to become Christians. To this end they based their appeal directly upon the religious faith which their hearers professed, and their main argument was the Gospel itself. – God has come near to us. He is in our midst.

15

Next after the Gospels, a favorite \Scriptural book with the Franciscans was the Apocalypse of St. John, from which they drew meditations and sermons upon heaven and hell. – God has become pleased with man through Christ.

16

If the friars could make the life of the Blessed (in heaven) attractive with beauty and vitality (through their sermons), they knew also how to bring home to (people) the dread hatefulness of sin as the harbinger of woe and misery… – The Church has the right and the duty to proclaim the truth about man.

17

(In their preaching) Death…enters into the scheme of life, not as a brooding shadow but as a fact in the frank recognition of which a man gains the wisdom to live well. – Every Christian is called to be a “Good Shepherd”.

18

If the test of sublimity of an ideal is its capacity to produce heroes, the proof of its universality is in the power to leaven the life of the unheroic multitude. Throughout (all of) Franciscan history, the heroic quality was in evidence, side by side with a great deal that was manifestly unheroic. – Only God can satisfy the thirst for happiness that overwhelms man’s heart.

19

Full praise of St. Francis is not sung in the lauding of his greater Brethren; it is complete only when we confess with gratitude the uplifting of the spirit which came into the lives of lesser men who traveled on lower plains yet with a recognition of the light above them. – Our hearts seek happiness.

A Modern Friar

20

A man with a gift for creating enthusiasms, an idealist in close touch with the mental and moral life of his time, a believer in the essential sincerity of the movements-religious, intellectual, and social-which take hold of the world’s life, and yet instinctively Catholic in his every thought and affection. – Genuine fulfillment of (the aspiration for happiness) can be found only in God.

21

The wide embrace with which he took to himself the life of his age, far from lessening his loyalty to the Church, only bound him to her more enthusiastically. In his mind’s eye, he always (sees) the spirit of Catholicism (hovering) over the restless world … – Faith assures us that God has come to encounter man in the person of Christ.

22

(He is given) to discover the truth or the goodness in the ideas or things … he instinctively (seeks) out the strength of a position rather than its weakness. To the end he (keeps) an actively receptive mind, combined with an intense moral earnestness and certain impetuosity of temperament, (thus making) his presence felt in any company as a stimulating breeze. – Our life is one continual succession of encounters with Christ.

23

With the gift of child wonder went also that joy in the imaginative world-a joy which swiftly passes into belief-which is also more commonly the heritage of the child than of the grown-up. Whatever he gazed upon, he saw with imagination and not merely with the eyes. – Love is supreme over work.

24

Nevertheless, he was a keen observer. His nature was impressionable to all the manifestations of life…whatever showed life, held him in thrall…- It is necessary that man, by his work and the fruits it produces, be able to construct the conditions for his love.

25

His imagination took in the suggestions of mystery and his reasoning intellect sought out the more universal truth which lies beyond the particular manifestation. – Work must help man to become better.

26

He was restless to look at life’s spiritual unity amidst diversity. – Work is necessary so that man may fulfill the magnificent mission that the Creator has entrusted to him.

27

With a perfect Catholic instinct he accepted the teachings of the Faith … and so between his faith and the experiences of life there was a close relationship. – Work must help man become better, spiritually more mature, and more responsible.

28

He lived, studied, and worked as in an attitude of prayer, as one standing in the sanctuary where God dwelt … In his religion he was a man (at home), imbued at once with loyalty and freedom. – Through various paths men point to the same goal.

29

His devotion to te Blessed Sacrament often drew him at nightfall to the altar when others had retired to rest, and I doubt whether on his busiest days he omitted to say the rosary of our Blessed Lady. – All seek personal happiness, within the context of a true communion of love.

30

He lived with a single and loyal mind, never allowing the thought of a more extended activity ti turn him aside from the narrower field in which religious obedience had placed him. – How are we passing the time that God has assigned us in our earthly journey?

 

The Church must clearly manifest the truth to the world so that men may clearly see it in her. All religious truth must manifest itself not as a mere intellectual affirmation but as a principle of practical life, carrying with it a rule for right conduct. – Time marks the stages of our earthly journey toward God.

 

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