Let’s rejoice in true friendship. On this occasion, Boswell missed Johnson’s company and longed for a letter. Johnson excuses himself with great eloquence! But who would like a letter or email from me – or you?
I set a very high value upon your friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say. ‘That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of melancholy, which, if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it is foolish to indulge; and if it be a duty to preserve our faculties entire for their proper use, it is criminal.
Suspicion is very often an useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe; for I am,
dear Sir, Most affectionately yours,
(from “Life of Johnson, Volume 3 1776-1780” by James Boswell, George Birkbeck Norman Hill)
Today is the feast of Gregory the Great, first pope of that name, who sent Augustine to Canterbury, arriving here in 597. He was inspired to establish the English mission when he came across young Saxons on sale in Rome’s market. Gregory was also a theologian and spiritual writer, here in his book Moralia (XXVIII 47), commenting on the Book of Job (12.4), where Job is answering his critics:
I am one mocked by his friends, Who called on God, and He answered him, The just and blameless who is ridiculed.
Window, St Thomas’ church, Canterbury, England.
Worldliness dictates to her followers to seek the high places of honour, to triumph in attaining the vain acquisition of temporal glory; to return manifold the mischiefs that others bring upon us; when the means are with us, to give way to no man’s opposition; when the opportunity of power is lacking, all whatsoever he cannot accomplish in wickedness to represent in the guise of peaceable good nature.
On the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought, to bear evil more gladly than to do it; to seek no revenging of a wrong, to account opprobrium for the Truth’s sake to be a gain. But this simplicity of the righteous is ‘laughed to scorn,’ in that the goodness of purity is taken for folly with the wise men of this world. For doubtless every thing that is done from innocency is accounted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom.
For what seems worse folly to the world than to shew the mind by the words, to feign nothing by crafty contrivance, to return no abuse for wrong, to pray for them that speak evil of us, to seek after poverty, to forsake our possessions, not to resist him that is robbing us, to offer the other cheek to one that strikes us?
Much of this passage could serve as a manifesto for Agnellus’ Mirror and for the Season of Creation:
It is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought.
We hope we live up to that, in the blog and in daily life.
I read somewhere of a shepherd who, when asked why he made, from within fairy rings, ritual observances to the moon to protect his flocks, replied: ‘I’d be a damn’ fool if I didn’t!’ These poems, with all their crudities, doubts, and confusions, are written for the love of Man and in praise of God, and I’d be a damn’ fool if they weren’t.
from Collected Poems, 1934-1952 by Dylan Thomas
And that’s what it came down to for EBB as well. She had her share of doubts and confusions, as we saw in her feelings about Robert’s love for her, but she came to trust him.
Dylan was another complicated character, but not quite a total damn’ fool. Love the words, he said, love the words. Which is how Robert was first attracted to EBB.
Dylan looked out over this seascape from his study in Laugharne.
The disciples did not know that it was Jesus walking with them. They told him how sad they were that Jesus had been killed.
They did not understand that Jesus had risen.Then Jesus said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have declared! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter into his glory.’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he opened up to them the things the Bible told about himself.
It’s a bit difficult to open up the Bible if you never open the Bible! But I don’t think it’s fair to accuse these two disciples of never opening the Bible, no! Jesus knows that they do read the words in the Bible, but he wants to open their hearts and their minds to understand the Bible in a new way.
Open hearts and open minds lead to open ears and open eyes. Open to read the Bible in what we see and hear around us. Let us listen today to our fellow walkers; can we have a laugh with them? Dennis was laughing and joining in when we saw the ducks on Tuesday and joined in with my quacking at them. That was more fun with two.
It is foolish playing at ducks, perhaps, but the disciples’ foolishness is the way in to their hearts that works for Jesus. I think he wants us in L’Arche to be like the prophets. They often did silly things that made people think about their lives. Some of the things we do may seem silly to other people, but we know they are important.
Is it foolish to spend four days walking from Dover to Canterbury? Saint Paul said, ‘We are fools for Christ’s sake.’(1 Corinthians 4:10)
Fr Richard Rohr published this meditation on the day the Franciscan International Study Centre held its closing ceremony, prior to selling the building and leaving Canterbury. Bishop Paul Mason said, ‘You can always change your mind.’ I, too, and many others associated with FISC think we need a revolution and were working tentatively towards it, but it will not now come via FISC.
Grace is given unawares and unearned and everywhere.
Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Image credit: La Franceschina (detail), c. 1474, Biblioteca Augusta, Perugia, Italy. artist unknown.
A Franciscan Revolution
“. . . A man like St. Francis of Assisi, for instance. What does he really mean? . . . A complete break with the pattern of history. . . . A man born out of due time. A sudden, unexplained revival of the primitive spirit of Christianity. The work he began still continues. . . . But it is not the same. The revolution is over. The revolutionaries have become conformists. The little brothers of the Little Poor Man are rattling alms boxes in the railway square or dealing in real estate to the profit of the order. [. . .] Of course, that isn’t the whole story. They teach, they preach, they do the work of God as best they know, but it is no longer a revolution, and I think we need one now.” —Morris West 
I hope these meditations can help reignite the Franciscan revolution, for that is what it was—and will be again. We are extremely blessed to be living in the time of a pope who most beautifully exemplifies Franciscan life (even though he is officially a Jesuit), because it is so much harder to do in our time. Pope Francis shows us that the Franciscan vision is possible at every level and in every age. Not only did he take the name Francis, but he seems so eager to proclaim both the “foolishness” and the wisdom of the Gospel to every level of society. He has the passion, love, and urgency of St. Francis himself and has moved the papacy from the palace to the streets.
I hope these reflections will help us recognize one helpful truth: There is a universal accessibility, invitation, and inclusivity in an authentic Franciscan spirituality. It surpasses the boundaries of religion, culture, gender, ethnicity, era, class, or any measure of worthiness or education. Like the Incarnation itself, the Franciscan reading of the Gospel “brings everything together, in the heavens and on the earth, behind Christ who is leading the way and in whom we are all claimed as God’s own” (Ephesians 1:10-11).
This is not an elitist journey, not a separatist or clerical journey. It is not based in asceticism or superiority but in the elements that are universally available to all humans: nature, embodiment, solidarity with the necessary cycle of both life (“attachment”) and death (“detachment”), the democracy of love, and most especially with a God “who is very near to you, in your mouth, and in your heart” (Deuteronomy 30:14). This is what divine grace is—always given unawares and unearned and everywhere.
 Morris West, The Shoes of the Fisherman (William Morrow: 1963), 270. The ellipses without brackets are from original text.
Rebuilding Christianity “From the Bottom Up”
Drawing from his own Franciscan heritage and other wisdom traditions, Richard Rohr reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal the foundations of contemplative Christianity and the universe itself: God as loving relationship.
Each week of meditations builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time! Watch a short introduction to the theme “From the Bottom Up” (8-minute video)—click here. If you’ve missed earlier messages, explore the online archive.
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