Tag Archives: Little Flowers of Saint Francis

9 May, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXIV: returned to himself

And as Brother John with such words lay at the feet of Christ, his prayer was heard, and he received from Him the first grace, to wit the flame of love divine, and he felt altogether renewed and comforted and knowing within himself that the gift of divine grace had returned to him again, he began to give thanks unto the blessed Christ and devoutly kiss His feet.

As he rose up, to gaze upon the face of Christ, Jesu Christ stretched out His most holy hands for him to kiss; and when that Brother John had kissed them, he drew near and leaned upon the breast of Jesu and embraced and kissed Him; and Christ in like manner embraced and kissed him. And in this kiss and this embrace, Brother John perceived ao divine a fragrance, that had all the fragrant spices and all the sweet-smelling things of ail the earth been gathered together, they would have seemed but as a stench in comparison with that fragrance. Brother John was right well illumined and consoled, and that fragrance remained within his soul for many months. And thenceforth, from out hia mouth that had drunk of the fountain of divine wisdom in the sacred breast of the Saviour, there came forth marvellous and celestial words, that change the hearts of men and brought forth rich fruit of souls in those who heard them.
And in the little path in the wood, whereon the blessed feet of Christ had stood, and for a great space all around, did Brother John always perceive that fragrance and behold that splendour, whene’er he fared thither, and for a long time thereafter. When Brother John returned to himself again after this ecstasy, and the bodily presence of Christ had disappeared, he remained so illumined in his soul, from the abyss of His divinity, that albeit he was not a man learned through human study, yet in marvellous fashion he solved and explained the most subtle and lofty questions touching the divine Trinity, and the deep mysteries of the Holy Scripture. And oftentimes thereafter, when he spake before the pope, and the cardinals, and the king, and his barons, and the masters, and doctors, they were all amazed at the lofty words and the profound thoughts that he spake.

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8 May, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXIII: fervour and desire.

the narrow ath

But since the desire of holy men, when God delays to hear, doth kindle in them greater love and merit, Christ, the blessed One, departed without hearing him, and without him speaking to him aught at all, and he went by the little pathway aforesaid. Then Brother John arose, and ran after Him, and once again threw himself at His feet, and with holy importunity held Him back, and with most devout tears besought Him, and said: “O most sweet Jesu Christ, have mercy upon me in my trouble; hear me for the multitude of Thy mercies, and for the truth of Thy salvation, and give back to me the joy of Thy countenance and Thy glance of pity, for the whole world is full of Thy mercy.
And still Christ departed and spake naught unto him, nor gave him any comfort; and He dealt with him even as a mother with her child, when she makes him desire the breast and makes him run behind weeping, to the end that he may thereafter receive it the more willingly. Brother John still followed Christ with greater fervour and desire; and when he was come close up to Him, the blessed Christ turned and looked upon him with a glad countenance and gracious; and opening His most holy and most pitying arms, embraced him very tenderly; and as He opened thus His arms, Brother John saw streaming from the most sacred breast of the Saviour rays of shining light, which illumined all the wood and him likewise, both in body and soul.
Then Brother John kneeled him down at the feet of Christ, and the blessed Christ of His loving kindness gave him His foot to kiss, as He did to the Magdalene; and Brother John holding it and with all reverence, bathed it with so many tears that he seemed a second Magdalene, saying devoutly:

‘I pray Thee, Lord, that Thou look not on my sins, but by Thy most holy passion and by the shedding of Thy most holy blood, revive my soul in the grace of Thy love, sith this is Thy commandment, that we love Thee with all our heart and with all our soul, the which commandment none can keep without Thy help. Help me then, most beloved Son of God, that I may love Thee with all my heart and with all my strength.”

This is a prayer any Christian could make their own; we do not ask to see the distant scene, let alone be assumed into it.

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6 May: Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXI: heavenly gifts.

St Francis at Ste Anne de Beaupre, Canada



Brother John of Alvernia, while yet a boy and living in the world, desired with all his heart to tread the path of penitence that keepeth pure both body and soul, whereby being still a little child, he began to wear the shirt of mail and iron girdle on his flesh, and to use great abstinence and above all, he shunned all carnal delights and mortified his body with great severity of abstinence but inspired of God he minded to leave the world with the lovers thereof, and to offer himself wholly unto the arms of the Crucified, in the habit of the crucified Saint Francis; and even so he did.

And being received into the Order while yet a boy, and committed unto the care of the master of the novices, he became so spiritually minded and so devout, that many a time hearing the said master speaking of God, his heart would melt like wax before the fire; and the love of God kindled in him such sweetness of grace, that not being able to remain still to endure such sweetness, he would get up, and as one drunken in spirit, would run, now through the garden, now through the wood, now through the church, according as the flame and the ardour of the spirit drave him.

The divine grace made this angelic soul to grow continually from virtue unto virtue, and in heavenly gifts, being uplifted unto God and rapt in ecstasy; so that at one time his mind was lifted up to the splendours of the Cherubim, at another time to the ardours of the Seraphim, at another to the joys of the Blessed, at another to the loving and ineffable embraces of Christ. And above all, once upon a time in exceeding wondrous fashion his heart was kindled with the fire of love divine, and this flame lasted in him for full three years, in which time he received marvellous consolations and visitations divine, and oftentimes was rapt in God, and in short, in the said time he seemed all on fire and burning with the love of Christ; and all this was on the holy mount of Alvernia.

Who today would counsel a young boy to wear penitential clothes? At least the Franciscans of the time let him run, run, run, like Zorba and his dancing. But things take a turn after three years.

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5 May: Little Flowers of Saint Francis LXX: Brother Jacques’ nightmare.

Brother John was resplendent above all the rest that had more completely drunk the chalice of life, whereby he had the more deeply gazed into the abyss of the infinite light divine: and had learned therein of the adversity and the tempest that was to rise up against this tree and shake and toss its branches. For the which cause Brother John came down from the top of the branch whereon he stood; and going down below all the branches hid himself in the solid tree and was rapt in thought.

One of the brothers that had taken part of the chalice and part had spilt, climbed up on to that place, whence Brother John had come down, And the nails of his hands became iron, sharp and keen as razors: whereat he left the place to which he had climbed, and with rage, and fury sought to hurl himself upon the said Brother John for to do him hurt. But Brother John cried aloud and commended himself to Christ that sat upon the throne; and Christ called unto him Saint Francis, and gave him a sharp flint stone, and said: “Take this stone and cut off the nails of that brother, wherewith he would fain tear Brother John, so that he may do him no hurt,”
Then Saint Francis came and did even as Christ had commanded. And this done, there arose a storm of wind, and shook the tree so violently that the brothers fell down on to the ground, and first of all they that had spilled all the chalice of the spirit of life, and were carried away by the devils to places of darkness and torment.

But Brother John, together with the others that had drunk all the chalice, were borne by the angels unto the place of life, and of light eternal, and beatific splendour. And Brother Jacques, that saw the vision, understood and discerned distinctly and separately all that he saw, touching the name and and condition and state of each one of them clearly. And so long did that storm beat against the tree that it fell, and the wind carried it away.
When the storm ceased, straightway from the golden root of this tree sprang up another tree that was all of gold, which brought forth leaves and flowers and fruit of gold. Of this tree, and how it spread out its branches and fixed deep its root, and of its beauty and fragrance and virtue, it were better to keep silence than to speak.

I was weighing up a shard of flint in my hand this morning. It was a good fit for my hand, and quite sharp, even from the batterings received in its centuries as a stone. The idea of being chased by Saint Francis wanting to cut my nails is pretty scary but so is that of being chased by a maddened, jealous friar! Thirty years after the hurricane blew down trees in our street their replacements are tall and sturdy. They were paid for bby the residents and businesses along the road. Brother Jacques’ second tree would have shared that communal vigour, emerging as fire-tested gold. May we have the grace to pass through the flames unhurt.

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May 4, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXIX: a tree fair to see.

LXIX BROTHER JACQUES of La Massa, unto whom God gave perfect knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures and of things to come was of so great sanctity that Brother Giles of Assisi, Brother Mark of Montino, Brother Juniper, and Brother Lucido said that they knew of no one in the world that found greater favour in the sight of God than this Brother Jacques.

Brother Jacques with great humility confessed that he beheld in a dream a tree fair to see and very great, whose root was of gold, and its fruits were men, and they were all of them Brothers Minor. Its main branches were distinctly marked according to the number of the provinces of the Order, and each branch had as many brothers as there were in the province whose name was written on the branch. And he saw Brother John of Parma on the highest point of the midmost branch of this tree, and on the tops of the branches round about were the ministers of all the provinces.

And thereafter he saw Christ sitting on a throne exceeding great and shining, and Christ called Saint Francis up thither and gave him a chalice full of the spirit of life, and sent him forth saying : “Go, visit thy brothers, and give them to drink of this chalice of the spirit of life; for the spirit of Satan will rise up against them and will strike them, and many of them will fall and will not rise up again.”

And Christ gave unto Saint Francis two angels to bear him company. Then came Saint Francis to give the chalice of life to his brothers; and he gave it first to Brother John of Parma: who, taking it, drank it all in haste, devoutly; and straightway he became all shining like the sun. And after him Saint Francis gave it to all the other brothers in order; and there were but few among them that took it with due reverence and devotion, and drank it all. Those that took it devoutly and drank it all, became straightway shining like the sun ; but those that spilled it ail and took it not devoutly, became black, and dark, and misshapen, and horrible to see; but those that drank part and spilled part, became partly shining and partly dark, according to the measure of their drinking or spilling thereof.

I rarely remember my dreams and the scraps and figments that linger barely make sense. But reading this one, we can pray that, like James and John, we can drink the cup that Jesus drank to the very end, and shine with him so that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.

This picture, from Brother Chris, shows a tree of Francis’s life. John of Parma was the seventh Minister General of the Franciscans.

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19 February. Little Flowers LXVI: Brother John’s journey, 2.

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As Brother John was praying devoutly one day, and weeping and lamenting that his life’s pilgrimage was so much prolonged, there appeared unto him Christ, the blessed One, and spake thus unto him: “My son, Brother John, ask of me whatsoever thou wilt”; and he replied : “My Lord, naught do I desire save Thee: but for this alone do I pray Thee, that Thou forgive me all my sins, and grant me grace to see Thee yet another time, when I have the greater need thereof.” Jesu said: “Thy prayer is granted.” And He was away, and Brother John remained altogether comforted.

At length, the brothers of the March hearing of the fame of his sanctity, prevailed with the General to bid him by holy obedience return to the March and he receiving this obedience, set out joyfully on his way, bethinking him that, done this journey, he needs would go to heaven, according to the promise of Christ, But when he had returned to the Province of the March, lie lived therein for thirty years.
Brother John, who was a man of cheerful and tranquil mind, spake but seldom, and was much given to prayer and devotion, and above all after Matins he would not return to his cell, but would continue in prayer in the church until daylight. While he was thus praying one night after Matins, the Angel of God appeared unto him, saying: “Brother John, now is finished thy journey, for the which thou hast waited so long; wherefore, in the name of God, I announce unto thee that thou mayest ask whatsoever grace thou wilt. And likewise I announce unto thee that thou mayest choose which thou wilt, — one day in Purgatory, or seven days’ pain on earth.”

And Brother John choosing rather the seven days’ pain on earth, straightway fell sick of divers infirmities; for a grievous fever seized him, and gout in his hands and his feet, and pains in his side, and many other ills but what was more grievous to him was that a devil stood before him and held in his hand a great scroll, whereon were written all the sins that he had ever done or thought, and said to him: “For these sins that thou hast done in thought, word, and deed, art thou damned to the depths of hell,” And he could not call to mind any good deed that he had ever done, either in the Order or elsewhere, and so he thought that he was damned, even as the devil said.

Here is Brother John’s vulnerability again, taking the devil’s word literally. I wonder if he’d be classed as autistic today, but clearly, to an onlooker, he is suffering from the temptation to despair over his own misdeeds. Tomorrow comes a friend-in-need.

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December 25, Little Flowers of Saint Francis L: Saint Clare’s Christmas

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It befell on a time that Saint Clare was grievously sick, so that she could not go at all to say the office in church with the other nuns. When the feast of the Nativity of Christ came round, all the others went to Matins: but she remained in her bed ill-content, for that she could not go with the others and partake of that spiritual consolation.

But Jesu Christ, her spouse, desiring not to leave her thus disconsolate, caused her to be miraculously carried to the church of Saint Francis and to be present at the whole of the office of Matins and the midnight Mass, and beyond all this to receive the Holy Communion and then be carried back to her bed.

When the nuns came back to Saint Clare, after the office in Saint Damian’s was over, they said to her: “O our mother, Sister Clare, what sweet consolation have we had on this holy feast of the Nativity! O, would that it had pleased God that you had been with us there!” And Saint Clare replied: “Praise and glory do give unto our Lord Jesu Christ, the blessed One, my sisters and daughters most dear; for that with much consolation to my soul I have had part in all the solemn rites of this most holy night, and even more than ye: sith through the loving care of my father, Saint Francis, and the grace of our Lord Jesu Christ, I have been present in the church of my venerable father, Saint Francis, and with the ears of my body and my mind have heard all the office and the sound of the organs that be there; and in the same place have taken the most holy Communion. Wherefore for such grace bestowed upon me rejoice and give thanks to our Lord Jesu Christ.

How encouraging to read that St Clare was ‘ill-content’ – which I read as grumpy! The day I was preparing this I was quite fed up after days of discomfort, but felt cheered by this story. Interesting that the Franciscans had an organ! Happy Christmas, from Ebenezer Scrooge, sorry, Will Turnstone and the team.

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26 November, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LIX: Brother Simon 2, into the woods.

entering woods

Brother Simon, as we read yesterday, was a mirror of virtue, an appropriate saint to view reflected in Agnellus’ Mirror. 

He had never learned the art of grammar; nathless he spake such profound and lofty things of God and of the love of Christ that his words seemed supernatural; whence it befell that one evening when he had gone into the wood with Brother Jacques da Massa for to speak of God, and was speaking most sweetly of the love divine, they continued all the night in such discourse, and in the morning it seemed to them that they had been but a brief space together, even as was told me by the said Brother Jacques.

dec 23 pic birds in flight

It befell on a day while the said Brother Simon was at prayer in the wood and was feeling great consolation in his soul, that a flock of crows began to do him annoy with their cries, wherefore he bade them in the name of Jesu depart and return there no more: whereat the said birds departing thence, from that time forward were no more seen nor heard, neither there nor in all of the country round. And this miracle was manifested unto all the Custody of Fermo, wherein the said House lay.

L’Arche Kent on pilgrimage, entering the wood.

Mrs Turnstone might be tempted to send the collared doves away from our garden! This story shows a fallible, human side to John, rather than the miracle-worker his brethren saw, and makes him a much more credible saint, just as Robert Frost’s ‘Minor Bird’ endears him to this reader at least. Laudato Si!

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.

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25 November, Little Flowers of Saint Francis LVIII: Brother Simon 1, the distressed novice.

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ABOUT the beginning of the Order of Saint Francis and while he was still alive, there came into the Order a young man of Assisi, the which was called Brother Simon: him God adorned and endowed with so much grace, such depth of contemplation and elevation of mind, that all his life was a mirror of virtue.

Brother Simon, when he set him down at table, before he took food for the body, would take for himself and for others spiritual food, speaking of God. Through his devout discourse on a time was converted a young man of San Severino, the which in the world was a youth exceeding vain and worldly, and was of noble blood and much delicate of body; and Brother Simon receiving the said youth into the Order, put his secular clothes aside in his own charge; and the youth abode with Brother Simon to be taught by him the rules of the Order. But the devil, that striveth to thwart all good, assailed him with so fierce a temptation and so grievous a thorn in the flesh, that in no wise could he resist the same; for the which cause he went to Brother Simon, and said unto him: “Give me back my clothes that I brought with me from the world, for I can no more endure this temptation of the flesh.” And Brother Simon having great compassion on him, said: “Sit here with me a little while, my son”; and he began to speak with him of God in such sort that all temptation left him: and when after a time the temptation came back and he asked for his clothes again, Brother Simon drove it away with speech of God. And when this had been so full many a time, at last one night the said temptation assailed him so grievously, even more than it was wont, that for naught in the world could he resist it, and going to Brother Simon, demanded of him again all his secular clothes, for that in no wise could he longer stay. Then Brother Simon, even as he was wont to do, made him sit down beside him; and as he spake to him of God, the youth leaned his head upon the breast of Brother Simon, for sorrow and distress of soul. Then Brother Simon for the great pity’s sake that he had, lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed, and as he devoutly besought the Lord for him, he was rapt in God and his prayer was heard: whenas he returned to himself again, the young man found himself altogether freed from that temptation, as though he had felt it never a whit.

The fire of temptation being thuswise changed into the fire of the Holy Spirit, for that he had
drawn near unto the burning coal, to wit, unto Brother Simon, he became altogether inflamed with the love of God and of his neighbour; in so much that on a time a malefactor having been taken who was to have both his eyes put out, he, to wit, the youth aforesaid, for pity’ a sake went boldly unto the governor, and in open council, and with many tears and humble prayers besought that one of his eyes might be put out and one only of the malefactor’s, for that he might not be deprived of both. But the governor and the council beholding the great fervour of the charity of this brother, forgave both the one and the other.

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4 October, the Franciscans come to Mount Alvernia, VII: Welcome, Francis!

dec 23 pic birds in flight4bc7872c090c71da62a65f182c7c3ff1

And when that they were come about halfway up the mountain, as the heat was very great and the ascent was weary, the peasant became very thirsty, in such sort that he began to cry aloud behind Saint Francis, saying : “ Woe is me, for I die of thirst; if I find not something to drink, I shall choke outright.” Wherefore Saint Francis got down off the ass and fell on his knees in prayer and remained so long kneeling with his hands lifted up to heaven, until he knew by revelation that God had heard his prayer. Then said Saint Francis to the peasant; “Run quickly to that rock, and there shalt thou find the living water, which Jesu Christ in this hour, of His mercy, hath made to come forth from out that rock.” So he ran to the place that Saint Francis had shown him, and found a fair spring that had been brought out of the hard rock by virtue of the prayer of Saint Francis: and he drank his fill thereof and was comforted.

And it doth well appear that this spring was brought out by God in miraculous fashion at the prayers of Saint Francis, seeing that neither before nor after was there ever seen in that place a spring of water, nor any living water near to that place for a great space round. This done, Saint Francis with his companions and the peasant gave thanks unto God for the miracle shown forth to them, and then went they on their way.

And as they drew near to the foot of the rock of Alvernia itself, it pleased Saint Francis to rest a little under the oak that was by the way, and is there to this day; and as he stood under it, Saint Francis began to take note of the situation of the place and of the country round. And as he was thus gazing, lo! there came a great multitude of birds from divers parts, the which, with singing and flapping of their wings, all showed joy and gladness exceeding great, and came about Saint Francis in such fashion that some settled on his head, some on his shoulders, and some on his arms, some in his lap, and some around his feet.

When his companions and the peasant marvelled, beholding this, Saint Francis, joyful in spirit, spake thus unto them: “I believe, brothers most dear, that it is pleasing unto our Lord Jesu Christ that we should dwell in this lonely mountain, seeing that our little Sisters and brothers the birds show such joy at our coming. And said these words, they arose, and went on their way and came at last to the place that his companions had first chosen. And this is the first reflection, to wit, how Saint Francis came to the holy mount of Alvernia.

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