Tag Archives: penance

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

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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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29 September, The Franciscans come to Mount Alvernia II: An after dinner conversation.

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Saint Francis said to Orlando: “Go this morning and do honour to thy friends, who have called thee to the feast, and dine with them, and after thou hast dined, we will speak together as much as thou wilt.”

So Orlando gat him to the dinner; and after he had dined, he returned to Saint Francis, and conferred with him, and set forth unto him fully the state of his soul. And at the end this, Orlando said to Saint Francis: I have in Tuscany a mountain, most proper for devotion, the which is called the Mount of Alvernia, and is very lonely and right well fitted for whoso may wish to do penance in a place remote from men, or whoso may desire to live a solitary life; if it should please thee, right willingly would I give it to thee and thy companions for the salvation of my soul.”

Saint Francis hearing this liberal offer of the thing that he so much desired, rejoiced with exceeding great joy and praising and giving thanks first to God and then to Orlando, he spake thus: “Orlando, when you have returned to your house, I will send unto you certain of my companions and you shall show them that mountain; and if it shall seem to them well fitted for prayer and penitence, I accept your loving offer even now.” And this said, Saint Francis departed and when his journey was done, returned to Saint Mary of the Angels: and likewise Orlando, when the festivities of that knightly company were over, returned to his castle, which was called Chiusi, the which was but a mile distant from Alvernia.

Pope Benedict XVI broke with protocol to share his Christmas dinners with poor people of Rome. (And like Saint Francis, he broke with protocol; in other ways too!)

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26 July. Little Flowers of Saint Francis LIV: The courteous gentleman, 3.

 

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When they drew near unto the courteous gentleman’s house, Saint Francis said to his companion: “Wait here for me a little while, for I fain would first pray to God that He may prosper our journey; that Jesu Christ may be pleased to grant us, weak and poor though we be, the noble prey that we mind to snatch from the world, through the virtue of His most holy passion.”

And this said, he set himself to pray in a place where he could be seen by the said courteous
gentleman; whereby, sith it was the will of God, as he was looking hither and thither, he beheld Saint Francis praying most devoutly before Christ, who with a great brightness appeared to him in the aforesaid prayer and stood before him; and the while he saw Saint Francis for some good space uplifted bodily from the earth. For the which cause he was so touched and inspired of God to leave the world, that incontinent he came forth out of his palace and ran towards Saint Francis, and coming up to him as he was at prayer, he kneeled down at his feet, and with exceeding great fervour and devotion besought him that it would please him to receive him and to do penance together with him.

Then Saint Francis, seeing his prayer was heard of God, and that that which he himself desired, this gentle man was begging for most earnestly, lifted him up, and in fervour and gladness of spirit embraced and kissed him, devoutly giving thanks to God, who had added so worthy a knight unto his company. And quoth that gentleman to Saint Francis: “What dost thou bid me do, my Father? Lo! I am ready to do thy bidding and give to the poor whatsoever I possess, and thus disburdened of all temporal things, to follow Christ with thee.”

And even so he did, according to the counsel of Saint Francis, distributing all that he had to the poor, and entered into the Order, and lived in great penitence and holiness of life and upright conversation.

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11 January: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XLV: The Temptations of Brother Ruffino, 2.

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Yesterday we read how Francis was made aware of Ruffino’s belief that he was damned, and his subsequent misery. We take up the story when Brother Masseo has called Ruffino to visit Francis. Francis emulates the father of the prodigal son and then gives some very earthy advice!

Saint Francis seeing Brother Ruffino coming from afar off, began to cry out: “O thou miserable Brother Ruffino, in whom hast thou believed?” And when Brother Ruffino was come up to him, Saint Francis recounted to him in order all the temptation that he had had of the devil within and without, and showed him clearly that what had appeared to him was the devil and not Christ, and that he ought in no wise to consent unto his promptings. But when the devil should say to thee again: “Thou art damned! do thou answer : Open thy mouth, for I fain would void on thee! and this shall be to thee the sign that he is the devil and not Christ; for as soon as thou shalt give him this answer, he will flee away incontinent.

Moreover by this token shouldst thou have known that he was the devil and not Christ, in that he hardened thy heart to all goodness, the which thing is his own proper office; but Christ, the blessed One, never hardeneth the heart of the faithful, nay, rather he softeneth it, as he saith by the mouth of the prophet: I will take away the stony heart and I will give you a heart of flesh”. (Ezekiel 36:26) Then Brother Ruffino, seeing that Saint Francis told him in order all the manner of his temptation, touched to the heart by his words, began to weep bitterly, and fell down before Saint Francis and humbly confessed his fault in having kept his temptation hidden. And thus he abode altogether consoled and comforted by the admonishments of the holy father, and wholly changed for the better.

Then at the last Saint Francis said unto him: “Go, my little son, and shrive1 thee, and relax not the zeal of thy wonted prayers: and know of a surety that this temptation will bring to thee great profit and consolation, and very shortly shalt thou prove it.” So Brother Ruffino returned to his cell in the wood, and continuing in prayer with many tears, behold the enemy came to him in the form 0f Christ, as to outward semblance, and said to him: “O Brother Ruffino, have I not told thee that thou shouldest not believe the son of Peter Bernardoni, nor shouldest weary thyself in tears and prayers, seeing that thou art damned? What doth it profit thee to afflict thyself while yet alive, and then when thou shalt die thou wilt be damned?” And straightway Brother Ruffino made answer to the devil: “Open thy mouth, for I fain would void on thee.”

1Confess your sins to a priest
End Paper of The Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

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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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21 February: Little Flowers of Saint Francis X: Brother Giles is cared for during a cold Lent, 1.

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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.”

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19 February: Little Flowers of Saint Francis IX: Saint Francis spends Lent on an island: II.

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Saint Francis remained alone: and sith there was no dwelling-place whereto he might betake him, he entered into a close thicket which many a thorny bush and shrub had fashioned like a cave or little hut: and in this place he gave himself up to prayer and contemplation of the things of heaven. And there abode he all the Lent, nor eating nor drinking aught save half of one of those small loaves, even as was found by his devoted follower on Holy Thursday, what time that he came back to him; who found of the two loaves one still entire, but of the other, half.

So men believe that Saint Francis took no food from reverence for the fast of Christ the blessed one, who fasted forty days and forty nights without partaking any earthly food ; but
in this manner with that half a loaf chased far the venom of vain glory from him, and after the pattern of Christ kept fast for forty days and forty nights.

Thereafter in that place where Saint Francis had wrought such wondrous abstinence, through his merits did God work many miracles; for the which cause did men begin to build houses there and dwell therein; and in brief space uprose a hamlet fair and great and therewithal a House for the brothers, the which is named the House of the Island; and even to this day the men and women of that hamlet have great reverence and devotion for the place where Saint Francis kept the aforesaid Lent.

Move forward a few Centuries, and you can visit the island on pilgrimage. This is what Sister Frances Teresa wrote for us about her visit to the Island: ‘When Francis was there for Lent it may have been a lot tougher. The tradition is that he went on Shrove Tuesday with two loaves and returned on Maundy Thursday with one and a half. I had eaten mine by 2pm!!’

See: https://wordpress.com/post/agnellusmirror.wordpress.com/8971

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18 February: Little Flowers of Saint Francis VIII: Saint Francis spends Lent on an island: I.

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Happy Lent! Here is the first of this month’s extracts from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. I’m not sure I could recommend such a fast as this, especially if you are working with machinery. Even our Muslim brothers and sisters eat every evening during Ramadan!

How Saint Francis passed a Lent in an island in the lake of Perugia , where he fasted forty days and forty nights, and ate no more than one half loaf

A S the true servant of Christ, Saint Francis, was in certain points as it were another Christ, given to the world for the salvation of men, it was the will of God the Father to make him in many of his acts conformed and like unto His own dear son Jesu Christ; even as was shown forth in the venerable company of the twelve companions, and in the wondrous mystery of the holy stigmata, and in the unbroken fast during the sacred Lent, which he kept in this manner.

It befell on a time that Saint Francis, on the day of carnival, being hard by the lake of Perugia in the house of one of his devoted followers, with the which he had lodged the night, was inspired of God that he should go and keep that Lent on an island in the lake; wherefore Saint Francis besought this devoted follower of his, that, for tine love of Christ, he would carry him across in his little boat to an island on the lake, wherein no man dwelt, so that none might be ware of it; so he for love of the great devotion that he had unto Saint Francis with diligence fulfilled his request and carried him across to the island aforesaid, and Saint Francis took with him naught save two small loaves.

And being come unto the island, and his friend parting himself to go back home, Saint Francis besought him tenderly that to no man would he reveal in what guise he there abode, and that save upon Holy Thursday he would not come to him; and so he was away.

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A week to go! Sister Rose is not banished to a desert island, but she is undertaking an adventure. Please support her using the website below.

Sister Rose is sleeping out in Littlehampton on Saturday 24th February to raise funds for Worthing Churches Homeless Project. Sister now has a website for donations:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/rosearden-close1

Thank you, Maurice.

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