Tag Archives: obedience

8 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXVI: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 3. (Shared Table XX)


Then after some long space, Saint Francis and Saint Clare, together with all the others, returning to themselves again and feeling of good comfort from the spiritual food, took little heed of the food of the body.

And, that blessed feast thus ended, Saint Clare, escorted well, returned unto Saint Damian, whereby the sisters, beholding her, had joy exceeding great; for they feared lest Saint Francis should have sent her to rule some other convent, even as he had already sent Sister Agnes, her holy sister, as abbess to rule the convent of Monticelli at Florence: and Saint Francis on a time had said to Saint Clare: Be thou ready, if so be that I needs must send thee to some other House; and she, as a daughter of holy obedience, had made answer :
Father, I am at all times ready to go whithersoever thou mayest send me.” Wherefore the sisters rejoiced exceedingly when they saw her face again: and thenceforward Saint Clare abode in much consolation.


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5 May: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXII: Christ appeared in the midst of them

good shepherd mada3

SAINT FRANCIS and his companions, in the beginning of the Order, being gathered together to speak of Christ, in fervour of spirit he bade one of them open his mouth in the name of God, and speak of God whate’er the Holy Spirit might inspire in him.

When the brother had done his bidding and spoken marvellous things of God, Saint Francis laid silence upon him, and bade another brother do likewise.

He yielding obedience, and discoursing subtly of God, Saint Francis in like manner laid silence upon him, and bade a third discourse of God, the which in like manner began to speak so deeply of the secret things of God, that Saint Francis knew of a surety that, even as the other twain, he spake by the Holy Spirit.

And this likewise was set forth by example and a clear sign; for while they thus were speaking, there appeared the blessed Christ in the midst of them in form and fashion of a youth most fair, and blessed them all, and filled them with such grace and sweetness, that they all were rapt away out of themselves, and lay as though dead, taking no heed of aught of this world.  Then returning to himself again, Saint Francis said unto them: brothers most dear, give thanks to God, who hath willed, by the mouths of the simple, to reveal the treasures of heavenly wisdom; since God it is that openeth the mouth of the dumb, and maketh the tongues of the simple to speak words exceeding wise.”

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5 March: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XVII. Listening to Each Other in Humility

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Once again we see how a sense of humour was essential for living with Saint Francis, and how the community balanced its loyalty to Francis and loyalty to Brother Masseo. 

SAINT FRANCIS, desiring to humble Brother Masseo, to the end that he might not be lifted up to vain glory by the many gifts and graces that God gave him, but by virtue of humility might grow therewith from virtue unto virtue, on a time when he abode in a solitary
place with those true saints, his first companions, (among the which was the said Brother Masseo), spake on a day to Brother Masseo, before all his companions:

O Brother Masseo, all these thy companions have the grace of contemplation and of prayer; but thou hast the grace of preaching the word of God, for the satisfying of the people : wherefore to the end that these may be able to give themselves up to contemplation, I will that thou perform the office of the door and of alms- giving and of the kitchen ; and when the other brothers eat, thou shalt eat without the door of the House; so that whosoever shall come to the house, thou mayst satisfy them, ere they knock, with some good words of God ; so that then none other need go out save thee; and this do for the merit of holy obedience.”

Therewith Brother Masseo drew back his hood and bent his head, and humbly received that obedience, and continued therein for many days performing the office of the door and of alms-giving and of the kitchen. Whereat his companions, as men enlightened of God, began to feel in their hearts great remorse, considering that Brother Masseo was a man of great perfection, even as they and more so, and that on him was laid all the burden of the House and not on them. For the which cause they all were moved with one desire, and gat them to the holy father and besought him that it would please him to distribute among them those offices, sith their consciences could in no wise endure that Brother Masseo should bear the burden of such toil.

Hearing this, Saint Francis yielded him unto their counsels, and granted their desire; and calling Brother Masseo, said unto him: “Brother Masseo, thy companions desire to have share in the offices that I have given thee, and therefore I will that the said offices be divided.”

Quoth Brother Masseo with great humility and patience: “Father, whate’er thou
dost lay on me, or wholly, or in part, I deem it altogether done of God.”

Then Saint Francis, beholding their loving kindness and the humility of Brother Masseo, preached unto them a marvellous sermon on holy humility ; setting forth unto them that the greater the gifts and graces that God giveth us, the more humble should we be, as without humility no virtue is acceptable to God. And done preaching, he distributed the offices with love exceeding great.

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


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 ? ”

rdjunction, lakes

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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February 9: N is for Nowhere


Apologies to Newington, Newport, Nonnington and any other candidates for this spot, but Nowhere came to mind and would not go away.

One person who did go to Nowhere was Noah, taking his little world with him, or being taken by it. How could he steer the Ark with no landmarks and no stars in the sky? John Masefield was a sailor around the turn of the 20th Century; even without GPS, he generally knew where he was and need not be anxious, even when alone at the wheel through the night:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

There is no record of Noah being anxious on board; but like many a sailor he relaxed and drank himself into oblivion once on shore. A different sort of Nowhere, not one to visit often. But Jesus and his followers were castigated as drunkards; though no doubt their critics’ stories grew in the telling!

Another Nowhere was the starting point for this reflection. I was privileged to arrive at the maternity unit moments after my grandson was born, and was holding him when his father came into the room and called him, ‘Hello, Abel!’

In all the confusion of that strange place, totally beyond the world he knew from his mother’s womb, he knew that voice, and turned to face his father. Nowhere became Somewhere!

From then on Abel has explored the world. It has become a place, a home, with the house he shares with his parents at its centre.

May we listen for Our Father’s voice and be ready to follow his commands as Noah did, trusting, trusting, when we feel lost.

Ark window, Shrewsbury Cathedral, Margaret Rope.

Sea Fever, John Masefield


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12 March, Human Will VIII: An Unexpected Reward for being less than 100% committed.


I trust Sister Johanna will allow me to continue reflecting on human will from another angle. WT.

Litter-picking is one of those fatigues that children in school resent. It’s one thing to pick up your own litter, another when it comes to other people’s. I try not to be resentful when I do my turn around our locality – turning over scraps of paper, bottles and cardboard coffee cups, instead of stones on the beach. But that’s more difficult when it comes to cigarette ends. (GRRRR!)

I tell myself the parable about the son who didn’t want to do what his father asked, while the other just made promises. Well, the first one: ‘afterwards, being moved with repentance, he went’. (Matthew 21:29).

My repentance was less than 100%! But a little reward came my way one day just before Christmas. Shining in a ray of winter sun, a very early snowdrop.

And better, surely, to do the job with a degree of anger than not at all? I was doing what I would have done had I been 100% repentant – and the job got done.



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15 February: Officers and Civilians


During the same Freshers’ Week Fair, and only a few paces away from the Paintball Monster, a slightly (but not very) different kind of recruitment was going on. Promising safe, lucrative careers to those newcomers from secondary schools, a British Army Officers’ Training Corps Tenet had a team ready to win over students to lives of military domination. Officers are paid to be good at domination. Students who have brains sharpened by A level mental discipline are just sufficiently self-assured about their talent for drilling others and keeping the world in line. Some might feel relieved to have difficult decisions about a fruitful direction to pursue in life to be taken for them by the military.

Psychotherapist Viktor Frankl observes that “boredom exists so that we will do justice to the meaning of our life.” From a utilitarian point of view, grief and repentance “appear to be meaningless” but when told to take a sleeping pill, “the grief-stricken person commonly retorts that his sleeping better will not awaken the lost one whom he mourns.” Through love “the gates to the whole universe of values are thrown open.” Dan Berrigan says that “one of the largest tasks of all… [is] helping other people to live by other  means than their fear, whether it  is fear of one another, fear of the enemy, fear  of the authorities, fear of prison, fear of disgrace, or fear of separation from their families.” Such inflation of reality is what “government [is] able to play on” till people can’t recognise fear of what might happen as different from what is actually happening.


Chris D.

January 2017.

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Autumn Evening Lectures at FISC: “What is theology saying?”

austinFr Austin McCormack will be speaking on Thursday evenings this term. I recommend these lectures to any Christian, including those from Reformation traditions who may wonder what we Catholics are all about. Please feel free to come to as many of these lectures as interest you.
Start time 19.00. You are asked to make a donation to cover expenses.
The subject of the course is:

“What is theology saying?”

7. 24/11: What about Original Sin?
8. 01/12: What morality did Jesus teach?
9. 08/12: Should we renounce the world or change it?
10. 15/12: Is there salvation in other religions?

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30 June, Mates in a very real sense: II.

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After a year I was beginning to believe I was a proper miner. Then one day as we were going on shift Tommy called out, ‘We’re shooting today.’

I thought he was joking, so quipped back, ‘The whole Board or just the chairman?’

‘No, this is proper shooting,’ Tommy replied. Then he explained that there were little spur lines bringing coal down from higher levels in smaller wagons. These loads had to be integrated into the main wagon lines, which was accomplished by what was called ‘shooting’, or sliding crowbars under the front wheels of these smaller trucks, and simultaneously jerking them so that they were switched to the main wagon line. The first time we tried this it seemed very tricky and Tommy had to bear the chief burden. As I began to get the hang of it and even enjoy the operation, there came an almighty crash and Tommy was shouting ‘Coal-oh!’ as we dived into the safety ditch which ran alongside the main wagon line.

Tons of coal fell in on top of us and I feared I would be suffocated as I was tightly pressed down into the safety ditch. Then what relief! I heard a rescue squad arriving and calling out to us not to move. In no time at all they cleared the coal that was covering us, gave us a quick check over and escorted us to the cage and up to the pit head.

Once we had cleaned up and checked over our bruises, the duty overman took us to the miners’ club bar where he stood us a double brandy each. ‘I was wondering if that safety ditch would do what they said it would’, he said. ‘Now I know it does. Well done lads.’


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29 June, Mates in a very real sense: I



There was news recently of a man dying in an accident in a potash mine in Yorkshire; a reminder of  the dangers faced by men and women at work the world over. in these two posts David remembers the community of comrades as well as the dangers of the work. (WT)

From the moment I arrived at the Beeston Pit I was in a totally strange world, full of strangers. Apart from the local Nottinghamshire men there were Welsh, Irish, Scots, Poles and Czechs. At first every aspect of mining seemed full of menace and every day there were accidents, some fatal. But despite the obvious dangers and the darkness of the pit, there was a sense of triumph in that men would descend into the bowels of the earth to extract this then vital raw material without which many industries could not function.

The first time I went down, after being kitted out with a helmet, a lamp, a whistle and a pick, I was paired off with a tough young Welshman, one Tommy Jones, who came from the same part of the Principality as myself, the hill country around Caernarfon. I was under Tommy’s wing: he would look after me, instruct me in my duties, and I would obey all his instructions to the letter, and would back him up at all times. We were mates in a very real sense and all the other men on the shift had similar relationships with those they worked with. Moreover, it was stressed that all the men on the shift were mates. It was run like a military operation under the direction of the ‘overman’ who was the ‘officer in charge’ and his sergeants the ‘leading hands’.

The pit was worked on the ‘room and pillar’ system, with one shift who would drill all around the coal face to create a room but would leave a pillar of coal in the centre to support the roof which would be reinforced by steel supports with pneumatic extensions. The cutting shift and the shift which prepared the next part of the coal face for cutting had all the most experienced miners, whilst the loading and clearing out shift was left to the younger miners like Tommy.

It was still a pretty tough job and in the first few weeks I was exhausted at the end of the shift when we would head for the newly built pit baths, a benefit of post-war nationalisation.

Generally speaking, the older miners preferred to have their wives wash away the dirt in the traditional way, in a tin tub placed before the range in their kitchen. I was in digs with one of the older miners, Ron Pritchard, and it was obvious when you saw his wife bathing him (and they were not at all shy about this ablution) how deep was their affection for each other. Ron had the ‘Dust’[1] and had been offered a job ‘up top’ for the same money as an underground miner but had refused as a matter of pride. As he put it he would be separated from his mates and would not feel like a miner, so he struggled on, coughing and wheezing.

After our bath Tommy and most of our shift would head for the very well-appointed and commodious miners’ club, which had a full-sized restaurant and bar, a large dance floor and stage, and a separate snooker room and lounge area. After working underground for six hours we were ready for a few ‘bevvies’ because we were totally dehydrated and would think nothing of downing five or six pints fairly quickly. But in over three years working at Beeston I never saw a miner drunk; it was not considered manly. However, I did on occasion see some of the miners’ wives and girlfriends get a bit wobbly on the club’s subsidised cherry brandy although this did not inhibit some pretty neat jiving.


[1] ‘The Dust’ or ‘Miner’s Lung’, is a respiratory disease clinically called pneumoconiosis, which left many miners unable to work due to irreversible lung impairment. In later years Ron would not have been allowed to continue underground.

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