Tag Archives: penance

1 March: Saint David

view from near St David’s birthplace

We start with a prayer to Saint David, asking him to pray for the people of Wales. Unlike the other nations of Britain, Wales has a native born saint as its patron, born at the edge of the little city that bears his name.

Blessed David, you are an apostle and patron for the people of Wales.
Grant, I implore, that through your prayers, your people will be enlightened by the truth which you taught, and they will obtain everlasting life. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Prayer from Daily Prayers website.

David was a true apostle, fondly remembered after 1500 years. he travelled the country, preaching and celebrating the Sacraments. His famous last advice to his followers was to ‘be faithful in the little things’; advice we could all usefully take to heart.

He was a vegetarian if not a vegan, so today we can enjoy a Leek and Potato gratin in his honour, though he would not have known potatoes, and would have eaten cheese only out of politeness. He did not condemn others who ate meat and dairy, but abstained from them as an act of penance; Lent all the year round. But today is a Feast Day, a day to celebrate in his honour.

Saint David’s altar stone, St David’s Cathedral

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27 February: our Journey of Love.

The final part of Sister Margaret’s reflection on the way of penance, Franciscan style. Thank you again, Sister! The last sentence is enough to ponder on throughout Lent.

We, as Franciscans, have been invited to join the way of penance. At times we will fail, for it is not always easy to turn away from ourselves, or to turn away from the values of the world which are, for the most part, so different from the values of God. When we do fail it is then, more than ever, that we need to turn to God and tell him we are sorry and carry on in our journey of penance – our journey of love, our soul’s journey into God.

Margaret FMSJ

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26 February: the Way of Penance

There has been an intimacy about our walks in the countryside during this virus time: Mrs Turnstone, our daughter and I have trodden paths, lanes and byways, often along the Pilgrims’ Way that crosses Kent, making for Canterbury and then down to Dover for Rome or Compostella. Sister Margaret offers us the insight that the way of penance is the way of intimacy with God.

The way of penance, the life of penance, is a call to a life of intimacy and union with God. The way of penance began for Francis, as we have seen, with an experience of God that radically changed his whole life. Because of this he was able to take up daily this life of penance, this daily turning away from himself to His God. It was through this way, the way of penance, that Francis found union with God.

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25 February: Lent is a joyful season.

Sister Margaret’s continuing reflection on Penance.

Penance affects the whole person and reflects itself in the lives of all men and women who profess to live a life of penance – reflects itself in their relationship with God, with themselves and with others.

We can say that penance (penitence, repentance) is the total and continuous giving of self to God in a life of love. When we understand it in this sense then the Lenten Preface does make sense. Lent is a joyful season, a season to be celebrated, not suffered, for it encourages us once more to turn continuously from ourselves to our God. This in turn means that we are more able to turn in love towards our brothers and sisters.

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23 February: under the influence of the Word of God.

More wisdom from Sister Margaret.

I finally found what John the Baptist and Christ were saying to us in Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation on Reconciliation and Penance. There he says, The term and the very concept of penance are very complex. If we link penance with the metanoia which the synoptics refer to, it means the inmost change of heart, under the influence of the Word of God and in the perspective of the kingdom. But penance also means changing one’s life in harmony with the change of heart and in this sense, doing penance is completed by bringing forth fruits worthy of penance. It is one’s whole being that becomes penitential.

St. John Paul has here recalled to us the true meaning of penance as found in the Scriptures: penance as metanoia. This was the penance rediscovered by Francis in the thirteenth Century. Over the centuries this meaning of penance once again became lost as emphasis was placed more and more on the externals of penance, with the interior meaning being either forgotten or overlooked.

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MMG

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22 February: this joyful season.

The Church, in one of her Lenten Prefaces, calls Lent this joyful season. These two points do not seem to go together.

Out of interest I went to the dictionary to see what it would tell me, and there I found that penance is sorrow for sin, evinced by acts of self-mortification. Is that all we mean by penance, repentance?

And the Lord himself led me among them [the lepers] and I had mercy upon them.

Here God has enabled Francis to accept the gift of penance offered to him and to put it into practice.

John the Baptist at the beginning of his public ministry preaches repentance. The Gospel ends with Christ commissioning his apostles to go and preach repentance to the nations. We cannot possibly believe that Christ, as He was leaving us to return to the Father, was telling His apostles to go and make life miserable for us by telling us we had to lead a life of penance – of misery. Of course not. Christ our God is a God of love and compassion and not a God of misery, though that might well have been the impression that we have given to others – the more it hurts the better it is for you: a ‘do-it-yourself’ kit to salvation.

And when I left them, that which seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body. And afterwards I lingered little and left the world.

Francis’ whole value system has been turned upside down.

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SMMcG

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21 February: Doing Penance: What did Saint Francis mean?

Zakopane, Poland

Sister Margaret gave me the following week’s posts when Lent was already filled, so I’ve had them filed away. It’s a privilege to offer her Franciscan perspective on Lent this year.

In the first three verses of his Testament,Francis of Assisi reveals to us that he had discovered anew the true meaning of penance. He does this by saying: The Lord granted me to begin to do penance in this way: while I was in sin it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. Note that, for Francis, the life of penance was a gift from God.

If we even begin to mention the word penance today the majority of people start to close up inside themselves as negative words and feelings flow into their minds and senses. Penance, they think, that awful practice where I have to do something that is uncomfortable to me.

How often, when the season of Lent in particular is drawing near, have we heard the question, or been asked it ourselves: What are you doing for Lent? The next words you might then hear are: I know what I am going to do. I’m giving up sweets and cakes – and I might even lose some weight while I am about it.

Is that really what Lent is all about, what penance is about, where the whole focus is on me with no mention of God and it’s all rather negative? Is that what Pope Innocent III was commissioning Francis to do when in 1209, orally approving Francis’ proposed Way of Life, he instructed him and his followers: Go with the Lord, brothers, and as the Lord will deign to inspire you, preach penance to all. Is that really what Francis meant when he sent his eight brothers out telling them: Go my dearest brothers, two by two into the various parts of the world, announcing to men peace and repentance?

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MMG

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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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16 March, Desert XIX: Detached lives

crux (427x528)

In the hands of the wicked

Revisiting ‘The Imitation of Christ’ after many years, in my Grandmother’s 1936 edition, I realise that it is very self-centred. Here Thomas A Kempis takes the Desert Fathers and Mothers as examples of the Christian life; ‘They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity. ‘ Is that what the Lord asks of us? Do we have to be strangers to the world in order to be intimate friends of God? I think not. Walking in charity and patience surely demands that we live in the world, and love the people in it and indeed the whole of creation, and our own life in it. Loving God’s creation which we can see, is to love the God we cannot see. Love of creation, rather than contempt for it, will bring us back from the brink of destruction. But here is The Imitation: I hope the time spent reading it is profitable!

Consider the lively examples set us by the saints, who possessed the light of true perfection and religion, and you will see how little, how nearly nothing, we do. What, alas, is our life, compared with theirs?

The saints and friends of Christ served the Lord in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in work and fatigue, in vigils and fasts, in prayers and holy meditations, in persecutions and many afflictions. How many and severe were the trials they suffered — the Apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the rest who willed to follow in the footsteps of Christ! They hated their lives on earth that they might have life in eternity.

How strict and detached were the lives the holy hermits led in the desert! …  They used all their time profitably; every hour seemed too short for serving God, and in the great sweetness of contemplation, they forgot even their bodily needs …

Strangers to the world, they were close and intimate friends of God. To themselves they seemed as nothing, and they were despised by the world, but in the eyes of God they were precious and beloved. They lived in true humility and simple obedience; they walked in charity and patience, making progress daily on the pathway of spiritual life and obtaining great favour with God. They were given as an example for all religious, and their power to stimulate us to perfection ought to be greater than that of the lukewarm to tempt us to laxity.

Taken from the translation by Aloysius Croft and Harold Bolton, Digitized by Harry Plantinga, planting@cs.pitt.edu, 1994. This etext is in the public domain.

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15 March, Desert XVIII, Rabindranath Tagore: Where is my desert?

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At midnight the would-be ascetic announced:
“This is the time to give up my home and seek for God. Ah, who has held me so long in delusion here?”
God whispered, “I,” but the ears of the man were stopped.
With a baby asleep at her breast lay his wife, peacefully sleeping on one side of the bed.
The man said, “Who are ye that have fooled me so long?”
The voice said again, “They are God,” but he heard it not.
The baby cried out in its dream, nestling close to its mother.
God commanded, “Stop, fool, leave not thy home,” but still he heard not.
God sighed and complained, “Why does my servant wander to seek me, forsaking me?””
(from “The Gardener” by Rabindranath Tagore)
 Life can seem a little too comfortable at times; a cosy house by the sea, a spouse, a child … is this too easy? Am I making time for God? Maybe God has made this time for me, with all its comforts and consolations.
Who knows what tomorrow, or the next twenty years will bring? But for now, love those given to you to be loved as if they were divine, for they are in the image and likeness of God. They are your vocation today. Accept them with joy.

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