Tag Archives: obedience

14 October: Make Obedience Sweet! John XXIII

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John may have been the pope who began to modernise the Church but he was still using what sounds like archaic language in this passage from Il Tiempo Massimo, on Obedience. But we should still get the message!

Here We address Ourself to those who have duties of direction and responsibility.

Demand a most generous obedience to the rules, but also be understanding of your fellow Sisters. Favor in each of them the development of natural aptitudes. The office of superiors is to make obedience sweet and not to obtain an exterior respect, still less to impose unbearable burdens.

Beloved daughters, We exhort all of you, live according to the spirit of this virtue, which is nourished by deep humility, by absolute disinterestedness and by complete detachment. When obedience has become the program of one’s whole life, one can understand the words of St. Catherine of Siena: “How sweet and glorious is this virtue in which all the other virtues are contained! Oh, obedience, you navigate without effort or danger and reach port safely! You conform to the only-begotten Word . . . you mount the ship of the most holy Cross to sustain the obedience of the Word, to not transgress it or depart from its teachings . . . you are great in unfailing perseverance, and so great is your strength from heaven to earth that you open heaven’s gates” (Dialogue, ch. 155.).

 

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13 September: ‘We thought we were set.’ Shared table XXV.

dunes

The BBC Website includes a section on The People’s War, memories of the conflict from all over the world. It is worth visiting to learn how bad and how good people can be in times of stress, conflict and danger.

George Nolan Johnston was in the British army in the Middle East, sent on a long and apparently pointless journey culminating in a crowded train with no opportunity to get food or drink. Did the officer who organised it not know the men could not get food, or did he just not care?

Here is an extract from Mr Nolan Johnston’s story, but do read the rest of it.

We arrived at a way-side station in the sand. A fleet of trucks waited for us, we were transported some miles west into the sun, and dumped on the side of a desert road. Our patch was beside an east-west tarmacadam road bordered to the North and South with sand. The patch was equipped with open ablutions and latrines. We had neither food nor tents.

Shortly after we arrived a dispatch rider arrived on a motorbike. He bore a message from the officer in charge of the next camp, which was a mile up the road. If we cared to walk up, he would supply us with tea and sandwiches, he apparently had been similarly dumped a week prior to us. We were really starving so we queued up with our tummies rumbling and mugs at the ready. The last few yards were torture and when we got a full mug of sweet tea and a large thick corned beef sandwich, we thought we were set. Never before or since have I enjoyed anything better. We were so very much grateful to the unknown officer.

Compassion, imagination and sharing.

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7 September. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXVI: Getting into the Habit 2.

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We start from the last paragraph of yesterday’s post.

The youth saw before him as it were a countless multitude of saints, like a procession, two and two, clad in beauteous robes of precious stuffs, and their faces and their hands shone like the sun, and they marched to the songs and chants of angels. Among these saints were twain more nobly clad and adorned than all the rest; and they were wrapt around with so much brightness that they wrought exceeding great amazement in whoso looked on them; and nigh to the end of the procession he saw one adorned with great glory that he seemed a new-made knight, more honoured than they all. The youth beholding the vision aforesaid, marvelled exceedingly and knew not what this procession might portend, and dared not ask, but stood all mazed for very sweetness.

Howbeit when all the procession had passed by, he took courage and ran after the last of them, and with great fear asked them, saying:
“Dear friends, I pray you of your good pleasure to tell me who are these folk so wonderful that go in this worshipful procession.”

They made answer: “Know, little son, that we be all Brothers Minor coming from the glory of paradise.”

And again he asked : “Who be those twain that shine more than the others ? They answered him: “These are Saint Francis and Saint Antony: and this last one that thou seest so honoured is a holy brother who died of late: the which, for that valiantly he fought against temptations, and persevered even unto the end, we are leading in triumph to the glory of paradise, and these robes of precious stuffs so beautiful, that we wear, have been given us by God in lieu of the rough tunics that we wore with patience in the religious life; and the glorious brightness that thou seest in us is given us of God for the humility and patience, and for the holy poverty and obedience and chastity, that we kept even unto the end. Wherefore, little son, let it not seem a hard matter to thee to wear the sackcloth of religion that beareth such good fruit ; seeing that, if with the sackcloth of Saint Francis for the love of Christ thou despise the world, and mortify the fiesh, and strive valiantly against the evil one, thou shalt together with us have even such a robe as this, and such brightness of glory.”


And these words spoken, the youth returned to himself again; and taking comfort from the vision, chased far from him all temptation, confessed his fault before the guardian and the brothers, and from thenceforth desired the roughness of penitence and of dress, and ended his days in the Order in great sanctity.

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

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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

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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

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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 ? ”

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

noahs-ark-lo-res-shrewsbury-cathedral-window-detail

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.

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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.

WT.

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15 February: Officers and Civilians

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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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