Tag Archives: discernment

21 May: Ascension Day

Ascension and Pentecost

This window explicitly links the Ascension to Pentecost, ten days later. And there seems to be a female presence in the shape of Mary and another woman in each scene, which is as it should be, despite the Lectionary airbrushing the women out of the Pentecost day reading from Acts.

But today is Ascension Day – Why are you looking up into the sky? What do you expect to see?

Or we could put the Angel’s question another way: if you are looking for Jesus where do you expect to find him? Among the clouds; really? Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it for me. It began with mutual support as the disciples continued to come to grips with all that had happened.

Here and now we can pray for the Spirit to fill our hearts with love, and give us eyes to see Jesus in our neighbours, family, friends.

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1 February: Proverbs 13:21-23. Hmm.

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My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.  

Proverbs 13:21-23.

A couple of days before I wrote this reflection, I allowed wisdom and discretion to depart from mine eyes. I walked out of my way in the season of wet leaves: my foot stumbled, I fell heavily, ‘nearly broke my neck’ as my father used to say, and actually broke my thumb – but I live to tell the tale. The family are threatening me with all sorts of restrictions and personal alarms, in fun, I hope; and Christmas passed without a gift-wrapped personal alarm to my stocking.

But of course, we should keep our eyes open, and see the world through the lenses of wisdom and discretion. The Book of Proverbs is full of advice which we will dip into over the coming months, but here’s another take on wisdom and discretion. The wise and sometimes indiscreet Dominican friar, Herbert McCabe said that, ‘the notion of blind obedience makes no more sense in our tradition than blind learning.’* And is that more of a challenge for the one commanding, or for the one expected to obey?

*Quoted in Timothy Ratcliffe OP,  Alive in God, A Christian Imagination, London, Bloomsbury, 2019

 

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October 28, Month of Mission: the Humble Godparent

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Actually, I’m also a proud godparent: proud to be sked, humble that I’m trusted with an unglamorous task. In the past week or so I’ve seen or heard from three of my godchildren, so I asked myself, what is the mission of the godparent? It’s one may of us undertake, usually out of friendship with a child’s parents.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us:

1253 Baptism is the sacrament of faith, but faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. When the catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” the response is: “Faith!”

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1255 For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult – on the road of Christian life. Their task is a truly ecclesial function. The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.

Most of the time I see very little of these young people whose families have moved away from Kent, so I can do nothing much from week to week, or even month to month, except remember their names in my prayers. It’s not for me to tell the Lord what they need in detail, but to raise them up to him, into his care.

Am I to regret that one godson is working part-time developing skincare products? Not when he is doing so, rather than ‘using’ his degree, so that he can share the care of his ailing mother. And after hearing from him, I was able to tell our parish priest who was this person, unknown to him, who is still remembered on our sick list; still part of our ‘ecclesial community’.

Do I miss the god-daughter who is too embarrassed to get in touch, after a broken promise? Of course, but perhaps she’ll believe her brother when he tells her I’d like to see her.

Was I glad to see my other two god-daughters, looking well, and playing nicely with young Abel? Need I ask?

But it’s not about me, except that I must be a firm believer (challenge No 1) able (challenge No 2) and ready (challenge No 3) to help on the road of Christian life.

Let’s ray for all godparents that we may perceive where our help is needed; may we remember our young protegés in our thoughts and prayers.

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10 September: Clearly!

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We are looking at some of Maria Montessori’s ideas on The Child in the Family in the light of Mary and Joseph’s experience of parenting. Bearing in mind our own experience and observations, how do we feel about this statement? (p25).

Clearly it is useless to correct defects that the child will no longer have when he is an adult.

How did Mary react to the ‘misbehaviour’ of Jesus stopping to listen and talk with the wise men in the Temple? A gentle reproach, and she stored all these things in her heart. Let us pray for discernment in all our dealings with children and young people.

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20 March: Before the Cross VII. Saint Francis’s Prayer before the Crucifix.

 

Most high,

glorious God,

enlighten the darkness of my heart,

and give me true faith,

certain hope,

and perfect charity,

sense and knowledge,

Lord,

that I may carry out

your holy and true command.

AMEN.

We are told that Francis prayed with these words in the early days of his conversion as he sought to learn God’s will for him. He spent hours before this crucifix, the San Damiano Cross, which is reproduced in many Franciscan churches. We had one at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury. This one is in the chapel of the Franciscan Minoresses in Leicestershire. 

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Text in Francis of Assisi, the Saint, Early Documents vol I, Eds Armstrong, Hellman, & Short, NY, New City Press, 1999 p40; San Damiano Cross, Public Domain via Wikipedia; Minoresses’ Chapel, photo by CD.

 

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5 February. From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe VI: Understand what I feel!

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Another view of Franciscan formation comes from Novice Brother Karabo Emmanuel Leballo.

Pax et Bonum! (Peace and Goodness).

Religious life has always been shaped by a profound realization of the mystery of God and by evaluation of the reality of the times. Throughout the ages, Christ, the Son of God has walked among us and has exercised a real and absolute claim on the lives of human beings. Today, as yesterday and tomorrow, Jesus attracts young men and women inviting them to follow him.

I write this article as a Franciscan Novice who is embracing a vocation to consecrated life. What this means for me is that my life should embrace penance and repentance which St Francis of Assisi expresses as a life of perfect joy.

To be a follower of St Francis can be joyous but very demanding, as it is centred on the values of prayer, fraternity, evangelisation, minority and work. This life becomes meaningful when it is believed, acted and shared. After all, this is a vocation to religious life as Thomas Aquinas explains that “religious life, being founded on Christ’s own advice is a better way to life. And therefore, he says, if someone wants to enter religious life (has a good intention) and does not have any definite obstacles then he should go for it. At first one makes a personal discernment and after there is an approval by the church authorities.

God does not call us to holiness simply as individuals but as members of the church, the mystical body of Christ. It is not suddenly expected that those who enter into religious life will be immediately perfect. What is required is for them to tend to perfection and to embrace the means of growing in perfection. A true vocation is nothing other than a firm and constant will in the one who has been called to serve God in accordance with divine majesty.

Novices on pilgrimage

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5 November. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXXII: Two Gentlemen of Bologna, 1.

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How Saint Francis converted in Bologna two scholars, who became brothers.

SAINT FRANCIS coming on a time to Bologna, all the people of the city ran together to see him; and so great was the press that scarce with great difficulty could the people reach the square and the square being all full of men and of women and of scholars, Saint Francis stood high up m the midst of them and began to preach whatsoever the Holy Spirit taught him; and preached so marvellously that it seemed rather that an angel was preaching than a man: and his celestial words appeared even as sharp arrows piercing the hearts of them that heard him in such sort, that in that preaching a great multitude of men and women were converted into penitence. Among the which were two students, nobly born, from Ancona;and the one was named Pellegrino and the other Rinieri; the which twain by divine inspiration touched in the heart by the said preaching, came to Saint Francis saying that they wished wholly to abandon the world and be of the number of his brethren.

Samt Francis, knowing by revelation that they were sent of God, and that in the Order they would lead a holy life, and noting their great fervour, received them joyfully, saying:  “Do thou, Pellegrino, live in the Order the life of humility, and thou, Brother Rinieri, serve the brethren”; and even so it was; for Brother Pellegrino wished not to live as a priest but as a lay brother, albeit he was a great scholar and right learned in the canon law; through the which humility he attained unto such great perfection of virtue, that Brother Bernard, the first-born of Saint Francis, said of him that he was one of the most perfect brothers in the world.

And at the last, the said Brother Pellegrino, full of virtue, passed from this miserable life unto the life of the blessed, and wrought many miracles before his death and thereafter. And the said Brother Rinieri devoutly and faithfully served the brethren, dwelling in great sanctity and humility: and he became Saint Francis’ close familiar friend. Being afterwards made minister of the Province of the March of Ancona, he ruled it for a long time with the utmost peace and discretion.

Photograph: Christina Chase

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9 July, Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVII: He is called to preach and pray.

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How Saint Francis received the counsel of Saint Clare and of the holy Brother Silvester, that it behoved him by preaching to convert much people; and how he founded the third Order, and preached unto the birds, and made the swallows hold their peace

THE humble servant of Christ, Saint Francis, having already gathered together many companions and received them into the order, fell into deep thought and much doubting as to what he ought to do: whether to give himself wholly unto prayer, or some time also unto preaching: and on this matter he much desired to learn the will of God. And for that the holy humility that was in him suffered him not to trust over much in himself nor in his own prayers, he thought to search out the will of God through the prayers of others: wherefore he called Brother Masseo, and bespake him thus: “Go unto Sister Clare and tell her on my behalf, that she with certain of her most spiritual companions, should pray devoutly unto God, that it may please Him to show me which of the twain is the better: whether to give myself to preaching or wholly unto prayer. And then go unto Brother Silvester and tell the like to him.”

Thus was that Brother Silvester who when he was in the world had seen a cross of gold proceeding from the mouth of Saint Francis, the which reached even unto heaven and the arms thereof unto the ends of the world, and this Brother Silvester was of so great devotion and so great sanctity, that whatsoe’er he asked of God was granted him, and oftentimes he spake with God; wherefore Saint Francis had a great devotion unto him.

Francis places great trust in God and in his friends!

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March 9: Humanising organisations.

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A friend issued a personal challenge the other day: not to be one of the people who organise humanity, but one of those who humanise organisations. That, he said, was one of today’s great challenges.

Nothing new about trying to fit people into systems:

  Jesus said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear, and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers.

(Luke 11.46)

This spring, this Lent, let’s pray for discernment to know when a rule is man-made not God given. e Of course, our efforts won’t always be appreciated, but we don’t want to be like Dylan’s Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, determinedly shutting out any break in the rules and routine of her life, and so shutting out joy: “before you let the sun in, mind he wipes his shoes.” (Under Milk Wood) 

MMB

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2 March. Little Flowers of Saint Francis, XIV: the Spinning Friar

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We said before that a sense of humour helped when living with Saint Francis; as Brother Masseo found on this journey with him. The next three passages tell how Saint Francis made Brother Masseo turn round and round several times , and then went to Sienna.

IT befell on a day when Saint Francis was going by the way with Brother Masseo, that the said Brother Masseo was going on a little before; and coming to a place where three roads met whereby one might go to Florence, to Sienna, or to Arezzo, quoth Brother Masseo:

“Father, by which way are we to go ? ”

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Replied Saint Francis : “By that which God shall will.”

Quoth Brother Masseo: “And how can we know the will of God?”

Replied Saint Francis: “By the sign which I shall show thee; wherefore by the merit of holy obedience I command thee that in the cross-way where thou art standing now, thou turn round and round as little children do, and cease not turning unless I tell thee.” Then Brother Masseo began to turn him round and round, and turned round so long that oftentimes he fell upon the ground through giddiness of the head, the which is wont to be engendered through such manner of turning; but sith Saint Francis did not bid him stop, he forthwith got up again, desiring faithfully to yield obedience.

At length, while he was turning round right manfully, Saint Francis said: “Stand firm and do not move” ; and so he st00d and Saint Francis asked him: “Towards what quarter is thy face now turned?”

Replied Brother Masseo: “Towards Sienna.”

Quoth Saint Francis: “That is the way that God would have us go.”

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