Lent With Saint Francis: Part V

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Saint Francis left behind him 28 admonitions for his brothers.  This Lent we will look at them.  Go here for part I, here for part II, here for part III here for part IV and here is part V, the final part:

XXI. THE GOOD AND THE VAIN RELIGIOUS

1. Blessed is that religious who takes no pleasure and joy except in the most holy words and deeds of the Lord 2. and with these leads people to the love of God in joy and gladness (cf. Ps. 50:10). 3. Woe to that religious who delights in idle and frivolous words and with these provokes people to laughter.

How completely out of step with our time where a sense of humor is prized above all!  Except of course, when it offends us politically, which shows where our treasure lies, since most people rarely joke about those things most deeply meaningful to them.  That so many people get their deepest meaning these days from politics indicates what a deeply impoverished time in which we live.  Christ’s message is indeed counter cultural in our time:

[19] Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. [20] But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.

[21] For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

Saint Matthew 6:  19-21

XXII. THE FRIVOLOUS AND TALKATIVE RELIGIOUS

1. Blessed is the servant who, when he speaks, does not reveal everything about himself in the hope of receiving a reward, and who is not quick to speak (cf. Prv. 29:20), but wisely weighs what he should say and how he should reply. 2. Woe to that religious who does not keep in his heart the good things the Lord reveals to him (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51) and who does not manifest them to others by his actions, but rather seeks to make such good things known by his words. 3. He thereby receives his reward (cf. Mt. 6:2, 16) while those who listen to him carry away but little fruit.

This passage demonstrates how far from the mark popular perceptions of Saint Francis are.  He and his followers are often depicted as prototype free spirited hippies.  Nothing could be further from the Franciscan reality.  Francis was not off on a spiritual lark, but was instead following the hard path laid out by Christ for his followers to tread.  As in all things, Saint Francis took Christ literally when He said this:

[24] Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. [25] For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it.

Matthew 16: 24-25

XXIII. CORRECTION

1. Blessed is the servant who would accept correction, accusation, and blame from another as patiently as he would from himself. 2. Blessed is the servant who when he is rebuked quietly agrees, respectfully submits, humbly admits his fault, and willingly makes amends. 3. Blessed is the servant who is not quick to excuse himself and who humbly accepts shame and blame for a sin, even though he did not commit any fault.

Few like to be corrected.  In our time many people accept no correction at all, especially those who revel in the most egregious behavior.  How far from Christ this all is:

[1] And after these things the Lord appointed also other seventy-two: and he sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither he himself was to come. [2] And he said to them: The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he send labourers into his harvest. [3] Go: Behold I send you as lambs among wolves. [4] Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and salute no man by the way. [5] Into whatsoever house you enter, first say: Peace be to this house.

[6] And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. [7] And in the same house, remain, eating and drinking such things as they have: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Remove not from house to house. [8] And into what city soever you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. [9] And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them: The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. [10] But into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you not, going forth into the streets thereof, say:

[11] Even the very dust of your city that cleaveth to us, we wipe off against you. Yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand. [12] I say to you, it shall be more tolerable at that day for Sodom, than for that city. [13] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida. For if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the mighty works that have been wrought in you, they would have done penance long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. [14] But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. [15] And thou, Capharnaum, which art exalted unto heaven, thou shalt be thrust down to hell.

[16] He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.

Matthew 10: 1-16

XXIV. HUMILITY

1. Blessed is the servant who is found to be as humble among his subjects as he would be among his masters. 2. Blessed is the servant who remains always under the rod of correction. He is the faithful and prudent servant (Mt. 24:45) who for all his offenses does not delay in punishing himself, inwardly through contrition and outwardly through confession and penance for what he did.

Humility, always a difficult virtue to master.

[26] It shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be the greater among you, let him be your minister: [27] And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant. [28] Even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many.

Matthew 20: 26-28

XXV. TRUE LOVE

Blessed is the servant who would love his brother as much when he is sick and cannot repay him as he would when he is well and can repay him. Blessed is the servant who would love and respect his brother as much when he is far from him as he would when he is with him and who would not say anything behind his back which in charity he could not say to his face.

True love as Christ taught us:

[41] And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two, [42] Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away. [43] You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: [45] That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.

[46] For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? [47] And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? [48] Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5: 41-48

XXVI. THE SERVANT OF GOD SHOULD HONOR THE CLERGY

1. Blessed is the servant who has faith in the clergy who live uprightly according to the norms of the Roman Church. 2. And woe to those who look down upon them; for even though they may be sinners, nonetheless no one is to judge them since the Lord alone reserves judgment on them to himself. 3. For inasmuch as their ministry is greater in that it concerns the most holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which they receive and which they alone administer to others, 4. so those who sin against them commit a greater sin than [if they sinned] against all other people of this world.

A truly unpopular admonition in present circumstances, but the “live uprightly according to the norms of the Roman Church” indicates the core of our current problem.  If our clergy were to live so and truly follow Christ we would see this replayed in our day:

[13] And leaving the city Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim; [14] That it might be fulfilled which was said by Isaias the prophet: [15] Land of Zabulon and land of Nephthalim, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:

[16] The people that sat in darkness, hath seen great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up. [17] From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [18] And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). [19] And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. [20] And they immediately leaving their nets, followed him.

[21] And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. [22] And they forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him. [23] And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, among the people. [24] And his fame went throughout all Syria, and they presented to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had palsy, and he cured them: [25] And much people followed him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Matthew 4: 13-21

XXVII. HOW VIRTUE DRIVES OUT VICE

1. Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
2. Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor disturbance.
3. Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither covetousness nor avarice.
4. Where there is inner peace and meditation, there is neither anxiousness nor dissipation.
5. Where there is fear of the Lord to guard the house (cf. Lk. 11:21), there the enemy cannot gain entry.
6. Where there is mercy and discernment, there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.

In our time virtue is usually mocked and vice celebrated.  However, such victories of darkness are only temporary:

[43] But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. [44] Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come. [45] Who, thinkest thou, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family, to give them meat in season.

[46] Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come he shall find so doing. [47] Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods. [48] But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming: [49] And shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and shall eat and drink with drunkards: [50] The lord of that servant shall come in a day that he hopeth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not:

Matthew 24: 43-50

XXVIII. HIDING A GOOD THING THAT IT MAY NOT BE LOST

Blessed is that servant who stores up in heaven (Mt. 6:20) the good things which the Lord has revealed to him and does not desire to reveal them to others in the hope of profiting thereby, 2. for the Most High himself will manifest his deeds to whomever he wishes. 3. Blessed is the servant who keeps the secrets of the Lord in his heart (cf. Lk. 2:19, 51).

If we do good in order to achieve human admiration we are lost:

[16] And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face; [18] That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee. [19] Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. [20] But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal.

Matthew 6: 16-19


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