THE OWLDownhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;Cold, yet had heat within me that was proofAgainst the North wind; tired, yet so that restHad seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest,Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.All of the night was quite barred out exceptAn owl’s cry, a most melancholy cryShaken out long and clear upon the hill,No merry note, nor cause of merriment,But one telling me plain what I escapedAnd others could not, that night, as in I went.And salted was my food, and my repose,Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voiceSpeaking for all who lay under the stars,Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.”
Tag Archives: hunger
Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta
Saint Francis said: “Give ear, my brothers: brother wolf, who standeth here before ye, hath promised me and plighted troth to make his peace with you, and to offend no more in any thing; and do ye promise him to give him every day whate’er he needs: and I am made his surety unto you that he will keep this pact of peace right steadfastly.”
Then promised all the folk with one accord to give him food abidingly. Then quoth Saint Francis to the wolf before them all: “ And thou, brother wolf, dost thou make promise to keep firm this pact of peace, that thou ofFend not man nor beast nor any creature?” And the wolf knelt him down and bowed his head : and with gentle movements of body, tail, and eyes, gave sign as best he could that he would keep their pact entire.
Quoth Saint Francis: “Brother wolf, I wish that as thou hast pledged me thy faith to this promise without the gate, even so shouldest thou pledge me thy faith to thy promise before all the people, and that thou play me not false for my promise, and the surety that I have given for thee.” Then the wolf lifting up his right paw, laid it in the hand of Saint Francis.
Therewith, this act, and the others set forth above, wrought such great joy and marvel in all the people, both through devotion to the saint, and through the newness of the miracle, and through the peace with the wolf, that all began to lift up their voices unto heaven praising and blessing God, that had sent Saint Francis unto them, who by his merits had set them free from the jaws of the cruel beast. And thereafter this same wolf lived two years in Agobio; and went like a tame beast in and out the houses, from door to door, without doing hurt to any or any doing hurt to him, and was courteously nourished by the people; and as he passed thuswise through the country and the houses, never did any dog bark behind him.
At length, after a two years’ space, brother wolf died of old age: whereat the townsfolk sorely
grieved, sith marking him pass so gently through the city, they minded them the better of the
virtue and the sanctity of Saint Francis.
When Father Simon Denton OFMCap had a Jubilee one year, Maurice’s brother Christopher made a cake with the wolf of Gubbio in icing. Basil, the family dog, modelled for the wolf. Much better looking than a mangy old wolf. And never a terrorist!
Saint Francis and the wolf By Stefano di Giovanni Sassetta
Spake Saint Francis again: “Brother wolf, sith it pleaseth thee to make and hold this peace, I promise thee that I will see to it that the folk of this place give thee food alway so long as thou shalt live, so that thou suffer not hunger any more; for that I wot well that through hunger hast thou wrought all this ill. But sith I win for thee this grace, I will, brother wolf, that thou promise me to do none hurt to any more, be he man or beast; dost promise me this?”
And the wolf gave clear token by the bowing of his head that he promised.
Then quoth Saint Francis: “Brother wolf, I will that thou plight me troth for this promise, that I may trust thee full well.” And Saint Francis stretching forth his hand to take pledge of his troth, the wolf lifted up his right paw before him and laid it gently on the hand of Saint Francis, giving thereby such sign of good faith as he was able.
Then quoth Saint Francis : “Brother wolf, I bid thee in the name of Jesu Christ come now with me, nothing doubting, and let us go stablish this peace in God’s name.” And the wolf obedient set forth with him, in fashion as a gentle lamb; whereat the townsfolk made mighty marvel, beholding.
And straightway the bruit of it was spread through all the city, so that all the people, menfolk and womenfolk, great and small, young and old, gat them to the market place for to see the wolf with Saint Francis. And the people being gathered all together, Saint Francis rose up to preach, avizing them among other matters how for their sins God suffered such things to be, and pestilences also: and how far more parlous is the flame of hell, the which must vex the damned eternally, than is the fury of the wolf that can but slay the body; how much then should men fear the jaws of hell, when such a multitude stands sore adread of the jaws of one so small a beast? Then turn ye, beloved, unto God, and work out a fit repentance for your sins; and God will set you free from the wolf in this present time, and in time to come from out the fires of hell.”
And done the preaching, Saint Francis, said: “Give ear, my brothers: brother wolf, who standeth here before ye, hath promised me and plighted troth to make his peace with you, and to ofFend no more in any thing; and do ye promise him to give him every day whate’er he needs: and I am made his surety unto you that he will keep this pact of peace right steadfastly.”
When Jesus began his ministry he didn’t expect it to lead to this – it wasn’t the goal of his mission. What he challenged us with was totally radical – the way of non-violence, of not needing someone to blame. His death reveals both the compassion of God and the reality of sin. Faced with Jesus, his contemporaries, chosen as hearers of the Word – panicked. The Gospels don’t present the leaders as particularly evil; they used arguments we are still using ourselves – prudence, common sense, self-defence… This is why sin is so appalling, showing how our normal and accepted ways of living are so corrupt that they crucify the innocent – legally.
Some would argue for a proper distinction to be made between religion, politics and social living. Jesus didn’t invite people to be poor, but to be poor in spirit – detached enough from whatever possessions to notice the poor man at the door. There is no love for a hungry person which leaves the person still hungry – it is pointless to show how much is being spent here and there – when the poor remain unfed, unclothed and unhoused. The very point of the Eucharist is to free people from the oppression of such evil. It is naïve to think we help poor people simply by becoming poor ourselves. Our call is to simplicity – simple means uncomplicated, and is not synonymous with easy.
We come to the Eucharist to be involved in ways of everyday living that will bring change. We have the gift of the Sacraments to help us do this. It is easy to miss the point of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by seeing it as a very special ceremony celebrated in but distinct from everyday living. There can be no intimacy with God without seeking the well-being of others – we are told the Second Commandment is like the first; which cautions about eating and drinking unworthily – 1Corinthians 11.27.
Grace is not a commodity God has to give to those who do what they are told to do. In fact, it is not something – it is relationship. It is an invitation to intimacy along with the gift of courage to say yes. Grace cannot be seen but gracefulness can, in heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. We can love our own family to the exclusion of others, likewise for one’s country – but such is not love since love knows nothing of exclusions. Love means openness – no matter who no matter where. See this expressed in the way the local folk in Germany turned out to welcome the migrants. This is Eucharist beyond the table. We relate to God as community, because it is only in community [no matter how small] that relationships happen. We have little experience of covenant relationship with God when so many human hungers go unnoticed.
The Eucharist is Mystery; mystery is not magic. Magic supposes there is no explanation or understanding – no way of entering-into the reality; whereas mystery invites participation in an encounter. This means a way-in to something greater than we are. Mystery is not something I can’t know anything about – but something can’t know everything about. How ludicrously wrong to say you can’t tell me anything about him – as if I can fit into my tiny mind everything about another person – when I can’t even know all about myself. Interesting to ask ourselves why did Jesus ask – who do people say I am?
To say we enter into something greater – to be with someone who can appropriately say we whereas I can only say I! What is happening for this to become my experience? The basic action of the Eucharist is sharing – not just eating. The experience this addresses in me is my experience of hunger. To be human is to be hungry, in the sense that I need more than myself to live fully – as well as food and drink, I need companionship and compassion… so many human hungers persuade me that I cannot be self-fulfilled. With all possible human hungers in mind – this is what Jesus means by I am the bread of life. Our Western culture persuades us that meal-times are essential and always available. There is no such thing as meal-time for the vast majority, who eat whenever food, affection and compassion are available.
If I am never hungry in any of these human hungers to the point of starving, it is unlikely that I feel for those who are permanently there. Compassion requires me to enter into the suffering of another simply because that is where they are [this makes sense of the ancient discipline of fasting before communion]. The obvious way to know about hunger is to be hungry. Hunger is intrusive; will not allow us to get on with anything else until it is attended to. When God created hunger he created a blessing – opportunity to experience so many good things. God created more than enough ways to satisfy every possible hunger – the fact of so much starvation serves to tell us what we have done with Creation’s good things, enough to make the experience of hunger a curse to be eradicated.
These days, I guess most of us think of an indulgence as something we can enjoy but do not really need. Like a slice of cake with your cup of tea. That’s a simnel cake, a sort of English Easter version of the German stollen. A daffodil for the risen Lord and eleven dots for the more-or-less-faithful Apostles.
We know that there were no recriminations from Him in those weeks after Easter. They were forgiven. Full stop.
So how the situation arose where people were selling indulgences, and many more people buying them, is hard to comprehend, except that if you were led to believe that paying down a week’s wages would secure your place in Heaven, well, What price would you pay?
That was an Indulgence in mediaeval times. Follow the link to an interesting article about an Indulgence on show in Manchester. And What price would you pay?
As our contributor Tom points out, you would readily pay a week’s wages for eternal salvation.
Here then is a connection to yesterday’s post, both about wartime, but this is a story of the aftermath of the Second World War.
The same day as I read this article I was in the Archive in Westminster diocese and found a 1947 exchange of letters between Miss Winifred Callaghan, head teacher of English Martyrs’ School in York and Cardinal Griffin in Westminster.
Most Reverend Father,
Kindly accept the enclosed £1 as a small donation to your ‘Children of Europe’ fund, from the children and some of the staff of the above school.
We would have made it more but many local calls kept us collecting. But on Friday we had a quick whip round with ‘your’ box, as we call it, and £1 resulted.
We ask your blessing and a prayer for us all please. May God bless you dear Father, from the children and teachers.
And not an indulgence in sight.
How blest the children of York, to have had such a head teacher! The generosity of many people, rich and poor, can be traced in the correspondence. They were supporting Germans, as well as Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavians, Estonians: people exiled from their homes across Europe, Germans stranded in the New Poland, many people who could not go home to what were now Communist countries.
Forgiveness freely given towards former enemies, and plain Christian charity.
And not an indulgence in sight.
So Brother Giles and his companion gave themselves up to prayer, beseeching God with all their hearts that He would send them help in their great need. And God, who is all-pitiful, had regard unto their faith and devotion and simplicity and fervour, after this fashion.
A certain man that was looking towards the church in which Brother Giles and his companion were, being inspired of God, said within himself; « It may be that in yon church are some good persons doing penance, who by reason of the snow that hath so much fallen, cannot supply their needs, and by reason thereof may die of hunger.” And urged on by the Holy Spirit, he said: “Of a surety I will go and see whether my imagination be true or not”; and taking some bread and a bottle of wine, he set out upon his way; and with exceeding
great difficulty he came to the church aforesaid, where he found Brother Giles and his
companion praying most devoutly ; and they were so consumed with hunger that to all seeming they appeared rather to be dead men than alive, He had great compassion on them, and when they were refreshed and comforted, he returned and told unto his neighbours the
need and the distress of these brothers, and prevailed on them and prayed them for the love of God to make provision for them; so that many persons, following his example, brought them bread and wine and other needful viands, for the love of God; and all through that Lent they took such order among themselves that in their need they were provided for.
And Brother Giles pondering on the mercy of God and the charity of those folk, said to his companion: “My brother most dear, even now have we prayed unto God to provide for us in our need, and our prayers have been heard: wherefore it is fitting that we give Him thanks and glory, and pray for them that have nourished us with their alms, and for all Christian people!”
And for his great fervour and devotion, God gave such grace unto Brother Giles that many
through his example left this blind world, and many others whose hearts were not turned to the religious life, did much great penance in their own homes.
We return to the Little Flowers today, with another Lenten story, this time about Francis’s follower, Brother Giles.
How Brother Giles was miraculously cared for in a time of great need, when by reason of the deep snow he could not go to beg alms
Brother Giles being at Rome in the house of a cardinal, as the time of the greater Lent drew nigh, and not finding such peace of mind as he desired, said to the cardinal: “My father, with
your leave, I wish to go for the peace of my soul to pass this Lent with my companion in some lonely place.”
Replied the cardinal, “Well, my brother most dear, and whither wouldest thou go? The famine is full sore; as yet ye know the land but ill. Come, be content to continue in my court, for right pleased shall I be to give you whatsoe’er you need, for the love of God,” Howbeit Brother Giles would fain be gone, and he gat him forth from Rome to a high mountain, where of old had stood a village, and still was found a deserted church that was called Saint Laurence, and he entered therein, he and his companion, and they continued in player and in much meditation.
They were unknown, and thereby was little reverence and devotion paid to them; wherefore
they suffered great want: and therewithal there fell deep snow that lasted many days. They could not go outside the church, and no man sent them aught to eat, nor had they anything
with them, and so they remained shut up for three days and nights.
Brother Giles seeing that he could not live by the labour of his hands and that he could not go out to beg for alms, said to his companion : “My brother most dear; let us cry unto the Lord with a loud voice that of His pity He may provide for us in this extremity and need, for certain monks being in great need, cried unto God, and the Divine Providence supplied their wants.”
A very short question and answer that I could not resist sharing with you all. Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ is the Director of the Vatican Observatory. This is taken from an interview he gave a couple of years ago, which you can find here. Go on, click!
Why are you doing astronomy when there are people starving in the world?
I learned the answer to that when I served in the US Peace Corps. When my African students learned I was an astronomer, they wanted to look through my little telescope and have the same joy in discovering the universe that I had. They, too, had an insatiable hunger to know about the universe. They reminded me: it’s not enough to feed the body; we also have to feed the soul.
Psalm 146(147) 2-5 links care for physical and emotional needs with astronomical endeavour.
The Lord buildeth up Jerusalem: he will gather together the dispersed of Israel. Who healeth the broken of heart, and bindeth up their bruises. Who telleth the number of the stars: and calleth them all by their names. Great is our Lord, and great is his power: and of his wisdom there is no number.
Brother Guy and his colleagues are still doing one part of the Lord’s temporal work while others are healing broken hearts and bodies, all in his grace. Let us pray for the wisdom to respond to his call, day by day.
Image of a galaxy from NASA.
Photo by CD
We face the same Problems at the Manger as Father Andrew pointed out eighty years ago.
O mighty God, O baby King,
Thyself must teach what welcoming
Thy children, old and young, should bring,
How each should make his offering.
For here are little boys and girls,
With tidy clothes and ordered curls;
A little Scout his flag unfurls,
His mother kneels in lace and pearls.
And here are faces pinched and white,
And men who walked about all night;
A soldier who has lost his sight,
A boy whose sums will not come right.
The young, the middle-aged, the old
Are gathered here, some gay with gold,
Some ragged creatures, starved and cold –
The fat and lean are in Thy fold.
And though our hearts at Christmas glow
With sense of shame that things are so,
Yet how to get the world to go
In Christian ways we do not know.
There’s nothing wrong in tidy boys,
It’s nice to give expensive toys,
It’s natural to make a noise,
And lovely things are perfect joys –
Yet still we kneel before Thy straw
In penitence and puzzling awe –
Show us our system’s vital flaw,
And that strong truth the Wise Men saw.
Love, Thou must teach us, every one,
To toil until Thy will be done;
So never in this world again
Shall child be housed in cattle pen.