Fr. Francis’ Reflections – March, 2015

March 2015

 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, The second Letter to St. Agnes of Prague)

 Following are excerpts taken from poverty and Joy The Franciscan Tradition by William J. Short, OFM. Daily reflections are taken from the words of Pope St. John XXIII.


What the Poverello wished to do was to bring again to our notice the science of holy love … And in fact, from the ‘bubbling-up well’ of his heart there has come a whole school of spirituality. – Peaceable folks do not stand idly by, they are the active builders of peace.


The Franciscan Family has included from its very beginning a rich diversity, and seems to resist even the most earnest attempts to turn it into a ‘system’. – Man must first pray for peace, and then learn to live in peace.


Francis himself seemed to many in his day a new kind of Christian, one who did not fit easily within the categories of his day. – Christian peace is rooted in faith, hope and charity, and is strengthened by prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.


Instead of accepting one of the well-established forms of Christian life … he chose the more difficult way, creating a new ‘form of life’, as he called it, different from the prevailing … forms then in favor. – True peace can come from God alone.


What drove that desire to create something new was his deep conviction that it was ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ himself who was guiding him. – Good will is the sincere intention to … be faithful to the truth.


Followers soon arrived … They formed a fraternity, followed a form of life based on the gospel. In part contemplatives, in part popular preachers, they lived and worked with their hands, frequently with the sick, and begged when they needed to. – Peace is first found and enjoyed in the family … (through) understanding and generosity.


Clare of Assisi … developed the new ‘form of life’ in a women’s community marked by sisterly communion, prayer and manual labor, with no stable sources of revenue. – What counts is the love with which we do the will of God.


Combining elements of monastic life with the life of lay women penitents she created her own unique expression of ‘life according to the Holy Gospel’. – He is truly great who has great love.


Its innovative character, especially Clare’s insistence on work and begging to support her sisters, alarmed church authorities, who time and again attempted to convince her to accept a more secure, more traditional lifestyle. – He is truly great who is humble of heart and sets no store by greatness or honors.


Forty years after beginning her ‘evangelical experiment’, Clare’s own Rule was approved, the first of its kind, written for women by a woman. – He is truly prudent who rejects as dross all earthly things, in order to win Christ.


As Francis reflected upon his life as he was approaching death, he left us in his Testament a remarkable and simple account of how the Franciscan tradition began: ‘The Lord inspired me to begin to do penance in this way …’ – There are so many people who have sight and yet do not see!


The great discovery for Francis … was as old as the Gospels themselves. The Lord had inspired in him the desire to live the kind of life that Jesus lived with his disciples. This may seem commonplace to us today … Not so in Francis’ day … – There are so many who get lost chasing after…trifles…of no account, and forget God, their own souls and righteousness.


In Francis’ day religious communities sought to imitate the early Christian community at Jerusalem … With its orderly rhythm … Francis was inspired to follow a life that was less settled … – Have courage!


Francis was inspired to follow a way of life … that would resemble more closely the life of Jesus himself, shared with Mary and the disciples during the brief years of their mission in Galilee and the surrounding territory. – Be generous in the tasks which await you.


The reference to Jesus, Mary and the disciples is intentional: Francis saw in them the pattern of his own life, and that of his followers. ‘The Lord Jesus Christ was a poor man and a transient and lived on alms, He and the Blessed Virgin and His disciples. – Work in charity and peace.


This life of transients, dependent on the generosity of others while they travel, struck a chord within Francis. In their poverty, Jesus and the members of His community were the best examples of what it means to proclaim the reign of God and live in its presence. – Purity of heart carefully and constantly guarded becomes the rule and radiance of our whole life and of every word and deed.


Jesus instructs his disciples to preach the reign of God, instructing them to travel without silver or gold, extra tunics, without sandals or walking-sticks … Francis cries out ‘This is what I want, this is what I desire, this is what I long for with all my heart’. – Purity of heart is the serene atmosphere which surrounds every earnest vocation.


(Clare) considered her life with her sisters a ‘mirror’ of the gospel, reflecting the face of Christy to the world, particularly to the violent and troubled world of Assisi itself. Clare and her community preached the gospel by their living example of poverty and peaceful unity. – Purity of heart must be the breath of the love of God.


(Francis) combined austerity of life with an infectious joy, service of the poor with lyrical delight in creatures, popular preaching with silent contemplation, and missionary journeys with long periods in mountain hermitages. – Purity of heart enables us to enjoy the incomparable happiness of long conversations with God in his holy tabernacle.


(Francis stigmata set him apart) from earlier saints, making him seem in flesh and blood, a living image of Christ, one perfectly conformed to the Lord he strove to follow. – The world cannot do without Christ.


The life of the Poverello may seem more cheerful and more peaceful than that of some of the other saints. But the truth is that he was the saint of excesses: excess in sacrifice, excess in love: and it was by reason of his excesses that he held to the happy medium, because his disregard for moderation worked both ways … – The Church treasures the words of Jesus.


Others received something from Francis … It was the experience of knowing Francis himself: he was the message … He taught ‘by word and example’ … He was a living example of what he taught. He edified his listeners by his example as well as his words; ‘he made his whole body a tongue’ … – Love governs the mutual relations of Christians and inspires our openness to all.


More than someone who prayed, he had become a prayer … That is, his whole person had become the message he was trying to communicate. – The Lord continues to love all his redeemed, in spite of the insults and ingratitude with which they reward his kindness.


And what was this message? In a word, it was Jesus … For Francis, the discovery of Jesus, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ’, was the ongoing revelation of his whole life in the twenty years after his conversion. – Let us not talk about the duties of others, but try to think more seriously about our own.


In his early years he discovered Jesus as the one who led him among the lepers, and made their presence ‘sweet to him’, rather than ‘bitter’. He then discovered Jesus the preacher of conversion, announcing the reign of God. – The divine rule about not serving two masters means not being of two minds.


Over the years he began to see more clearly Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God .. As the Lord of all things, raised up in glory after his death. And in this Lord, the glorified Son, he also understood the Trinitarian God. – Be aware of what’s going on around you.


It is through ’the Lord Jesus Christ’ that Francis understands Mary, the Church, the Scriptures, priesthood, the poor, his brothers and sisters, and all creatures. – God has engraved his law on men’s hearts.


If there is one word which does complete justice to Franciscan theology and spirituality, it is ‘Christocentric’, and they have this as their distinguishing feature, because the faith and holiness of St. Francis were totally centered on Christ. In Jesus Christ the revelation is made to us of what the world as a whole and in all its parts, means to God. – Everything is in the Lord’s hands


What unites Clare and Francis is not an identical experience of Christ, but different experiences of the same Christ. – Human life must be founded on virtue and not on the hope of some gain or advantage.


More than a disciple, Clare is also a creative architect of the tradition she lived. – We are not put into this world to dissipate our energies or amuse ourselves, but to do the will of God.


Poverty, or ‘living without grasping’, marks the writings and lives of both Francis and Clare. A key to their understanding of Christ, poverty also became a source of division among their followers. – Body and soul must go forward together; whoever does so will be worthy, good and honest.

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