September Reflections from Father Francis

The Self-Emptying
At one time a tempted brother asked Francis to pray for him, the holy man said:  Believe me, son, I believe you are more a servant of God because of this.  No one, he said, should consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptations and tribulations… – We must work for peace and pray for peace.
A temptation overcome is like a ring which the Lord betroths the soul of his servant.  Many flatter themselves over their many years of merit and rejoice at never having suffered any temptations. But sheer fright would knock them out before a battle even started. So they should know that the Lord has kept in kind their weakness of spirit.  Hard fights are rarely fought except by those with the greatest strength. – Peace is above all a gift of God: it requires prayer.
And another brother was vexed for a long time by a temptation of the spirit, which is worse and more subtle that the prompting of the flesh. He came to Saint Francis … with bitter tears … The saint, however, realized that he was tormented by wicked spirits.  I command, he said,  from this moment stop assailing my brother.  Immediately the brother became free. – The soul that lives in habitual contact with God … knows how to guard without difficult against the temptation of particularism and opposition, which create the risk of painful divisions.
Tempted himself, he learned to suffer with those who were sometimes tempted. For at times he endured a very great temptation of the flesh … At another time a very serious temptation of spirit came upon him … because of it he was filled with anguish and sorrow … He was under attack in this way for several years … – The Eucharist is placed at the center of the life of the great human family.
One day while praying at Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, he heard in spirit a voice: Francis, if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would tell the mountain to move from here, and it would move … The mountain is your temptation. And (Francis) said, sobbing: Lord, be it done to me as you have said.  At once, the whole temptation was driven away, he was set free. – The Eucharist is the great instrument for bringing men closer to one another.
He used to tell (his brothers): As you announce peace with your mouth, may you keep it in your heart, thus no one will be provoked to anger or scandal, but rather to kindness and gentleness.  For we have been called to this: to cure the wounded, to bind up the broken, and to recall the erring.  Many who seem to us to be members of the devil, will yet be disciples of Christ. – God becomes converted to us through the Cross of Christ.
To his brothers he would speak compassionately, not as a judge, but as a father to his children and a doctor to the sick … Great was his compassion toward the sick and great his concern for their needs … He was truly endowed with outstanding discernment and the grace of simplicity, so that with a true dove-like simplicity, he possessed the prudence of a serpent. – Let us open ourselves to God who wants to open himself to us.
He depended on the divine foresight according to the word he spoke to the Lord Pope who argued that it was difficult to live without possessions.  My Lord, I trust in my Lord Jesus Christ.  Since He has promised to give us life and glory in heaven, he will not deprive us of our bodily necessities when we need them on earth. – Conversion is before all else acceptance … (of) God in all the riches of his ‘conversion’ toward man.
He was well aware that the Lord took care of him even in the smallest matters … He did not want to be involved with the world through temporal things. – Christ says to the suffering person: ‘Come follow me!’
He responded (to the Bishop of Assisi regarding possessing nothing): Lord, if we had any possessions, we would need to have arms to protect them, because they cause many disputes and lawsuits.  Possessions usually impede the love of God and neighbor. – The Church is built up through communion with the Son of God.
He would frequently say:  As far as the brothers will withdraw from poverty, that  far will the world withdraw from them.  They owe the world an example, and the world owes the food they need.  When the brothers withdraw good example, the world withdraws from them its support. – The most precious gift the Church can offer today’s disoriented and disquieted world is to form Christians who are securely and humbly joyous in their faith.
He wanted the brothers to be content with a few things, and not to possess these few things, whether places or things, as their own.  He wanted to own nothing so that he could possess everything more fully in the Lord. – The Church is realized in the Sacrifice of Christ.
With the greatest zeal he cultivated poverty’s companion, the virtue of humility. Because of this he wanted the brothers to be clothed in a humble habit, girt with a rope, to be called Lesser Brothers, and never to exalted in this world. – Each of us must regard our own lives and the history of humanity in a certain way with the eyes of Mary.
Blessed Dominic … clung to Blessed Francis by such devotion that he most devotedly wore under is inner tunic a cord which he had given him, and said that he wished that Francis’ religion and his own could be one, and stated that he should be imitated for his holiness by other religious. – Everyone welcomes within himself the Word of God.
(Regarding the humility and charity between the two Fathers, the passage continues) Oh, how this humility and mutual charity of their Fathers must be imitated by their sons!  Truly, it would be profitable to them and to God’s Church. – Let the soul of Mary be in everyone to magnify the Lord (St. Ambrose).
(Saint Francis) used to say: We have been sent to help clerics for the salvation of souls so that we may make up whatever may be lacking in them.  Each shall receive a reward, not on account of authority, but because of the work done.  Know then, brothers, that the good of souls is what pleases God most … – Let the spirit of Mary be in everyone to exult in the Lord  (St. Ambrose).
As he thought humbly of himself, he was, in his own eyes, a great sinner, while actually he was in every was a mirror of holiness, and also a virgin in the flesh, as he revealed to that very holy man, Brother Leo, his confessor, and then disclosed to the General Minister. – If, according to the flesh, only one is the mother of Christ, according to the faith all souls generate Christ for everyone welcomes within him the Word of God.  (St. Ambrose)
Virginal purity was fitting for flesh adorned with the sacred stigmata.  If some ordinary people of the world, by the working of grace and nature, preserve the integrity of the flesh even to old age, who would wonder that Francis preserved it, when God was disposed to exalt him with such a grace? – Procreation is rooted in creation.
The holy man always insisted on progress in doing good, remembering that the lukewarm, who do not apply themselves constantly to some work, would be quickly vomited out of the Lord’s mouth. No idler could appear in his presence without feeling the sharp bite of his criticism. – If you really accept the loves that comes from Christ, it will lead you to God.
He wished his brothers to apply themselves always to prayer or to some good work … The saint used to speak against the disease of acedia: When a servant of God gets disturbed about something, as often happens, he must get up at once to pray and remain before the Most High Father until he gives back to him the joy of his salvation. – Whatever you make of your life, make sure that it is a reflection of Christ’s love.
(St. Francis commented on a passage from Ezekiel) A servant of God should be burning with life and holiness so brightly, that by the light of example and the tongue of his conduct, he will rebuke all the wicked.  In that way, the brightness of his life and the fragrance of his reputation will proclaim their wickedness to all of them. – In everything that you do, remember that Christ calls you, in one way or another, to a service of love.
The saint was brilliant with great power in expelling demons and the grace of healing … Through the sign of the cross he gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, and healed various illnesses. – There is need of a coherent and courageous testimony of faith.
The Lord said to (a brother who prayed 50 psalms a day that the Lord would guard him from the pains of purgatory): Work confidently and do penance, for while I was in the world, I always labored.  Let us, therefore, follow Christ and Saint Francis in labor, that we may be joined to them in rest.  The industrious Lord does not love a lazy servant. – We must first of all abandon the worldly and pagan mentality.
The Three Orders
Francis’ teaching produced fruit especially in the three Orders that he established. The first is the Order of Lesser Brothers whose purpose is to serve the Lord according to the Gospel in poverty and humility, and to preach penance … this is acceptable to God … – We must transform the worldly mentality into the mentality of Christ.
(The emperor Jean died in the habit of the Order as God’s answer to his earnest prayer)  O my most sweet Lord, Jesus Christ, would that I who have lived elegantly in the pomp of the world, clothed in priceless garments, could, as a truly poor and humble man, follow you, who are poor and humble, by seeking alms in this habit with a sack hanging from my neck. – We must accept the whole message of Christ without reductions of convenience and in accord with his example.
We should not be silent in our praise for Christ who exalted the humble. – (Rely on the action of grace) which can give to each of us the generosity to accept the responsibility for our own actions in terms of eternity and for the good of society.
The second Order founded by blessed Francis is that of virgins and continent women, whose proposal is to serve God in the enclosure, in perpetual silence, and in mortifying the flesh.  The first member of this Order was the blessed Clare, a most devout disciple of blessed Francis. – To be a Christian means to be a witness to Christ.
The Third Order is of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, shared by clerics, laity, virgins, widows, and married couples.  Their purpose is to live uprightly in their own homes, to devote their attention to works of piety, and to flee the world’s allurements. – Without God, what remains of human beings!?
From the beginning a brother was assigned to them as minister, but now, in each region, they are released to their ministers, but who, as confreres begotten by the same father, are still encouraged by the brothers with counsel and assistance. – We live in times when God is forgotten … a world deprived of God … a world snatched away from its Creator.
The saint was busy giving to every class of people a way of penance and salvation. One time when a parish priest told him he wanted to be his brothers while still retaining the church, after he gave him a way of living and acting, he is said to have told him that each year, when the income of the church had been collected, he should give for God whatever was left from the preceding year. – The need to proclaim God is a sign peculiar to the times in which we live. If we separate ourselves from the Creator and cancel God, what remains of the creature?


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