Tag Archives: rules
In Darkest England
Thompson, a century ago, saw conditions that needed addressing. Having been homeless, he knew the life from inside. Here he compares the Salvation Army with the Franciscans, lamenting that there are not more of the latter. In view of the closure of the Franciscan Study Centre and the diminishing numbers of professed religious Franciscans, we can learn from the Salvation Army, and stand shoulder to shoulder with them with the Food Banks and other ecumenical ventures. The state of ecumenism, at least, is an advance on Thompson’s day.
Tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Clare, friend of St Francis and founder of the Franciscan sisters known as Poor Clares. Happy Feast to all our sisters!
Consider what the Salvation Army is. It is not merely a sect, it is virtually a Religious Order, but a Religious Order of a peculiar kind. It consists of men and women living in the world the life of the world, pursuing their businesses, marrying, bringing up families; yet united by rule and discipline, and pushing forward active work of charity and religious influence among the forsaken poor. It possesses, moreover, the advantage of numerous recruits from the ranks of the poor, through whom it can obtain intimate knowledge of the condition and requirements of their class.
May it be that here, too, the Salvation Army has studied St Francis? Here, too, the Assisian has left us a weapon which but needs little practice to adapt it to the necessity of the day. Even so… The Franciscan Tertiaries are this army. They are men and women who live in the world the life of the world – though not a worldly life: who marry, rear their families, attend to their worldly vocations; yet they are a Religious Order, with rule and observance.
Not all of us are called to join the Franciscan Tertiaries, but there are many openings for us to ‘meet the necessities of the day’. Something to ponder on.
See The Works of Francis Thompson, Prose: Volume III, p57-58. Burns Oates, 1920.
Ajax was telling the Director about something that had happened while the two Ossyrian researchers, disguised as Chihuahuas, had been staying with their friends, the Turnstones.
‘Abel had just had his birthday, so he’s now two. He and his parents came round while we were at Will’s, and when Will brought the tea tray into the front room, Abel pulled his mother off the armchair. He said, “Grandad chair, Grandad chair!’
‘He was quite agitated’, said Alfie, ‘as if the whole world depended on everyone being in the right place. He sat on his own little green chair when he’d got his grandparents sorted.
‘Mrs T was laughing, but Abel was too intent on getting things right to notice.’
‘What do we take from that?’ Pondered T, the Director. ‘An inborn desire for order, security, perhaps. But Abel does not always want a rigid routine. He also wants adventure. Remember when he went paddling in the pool last winter?’
‘Don’t remind us!’ said Alfie, ‘and don’t expect us to come swimming with you just because the air temperature is above 20° Celsius.’
‘He was wearing a ski suit and boots. But do I take it that you guys are ready to go back to pod life? I’m sure it could be arranged in a couple of earth months.’
The pseudo-chihuahuas buried their heads under their common blanket. There were thoughts they did not wish to share with the Director.
‘Hey, T’, beamed Alfie, as the train pulled out of Canterbury, ‘Can’t you read English?’
T had just jumped off the train, said ‘Hi’ to Will Turnstone, grabbed the dogs’ travelling bag and scooped up the pseudo-chihuahuas’ leads and leapt back on board, all in 30 seconds flat. No wonder he did not notice he had trespassed into the First Class compartment.
‘Oh, Come on Alf,’ he beamed back. ‘I’ve been away for three days: what kind of a greeting is that?’
‘Just warning you, T. Here comes the guard to check tickets. Look at that little white antimacassar.’
‘What Alfie’s trying to say,’ interrupted Ajax, ‘is that we are in First Class and I bet you have a standard class ticket.’
‘Sure I do’, T was saying as the guard came by.
‘Hello again sir,’ she said. ‘And who are these fine creatures? Do they mind being petted?’
‘No, go ahead, they’ll take any amount of fuss.’ So for the rest of the ride, in between her duties of platform watching, whistle-blowing and flag-waving; ticket inspection and sales, the guard spent her time in First Class, chatting to T and stroking Alfie and Ajax.
Back home, T said, ‘Will told me how all the old ladies and teenage girls homed in on you two. A babe magnet, he said.’
‘It’s just a chihuahua thing,’ Ajax replied. ‘But you sitting in the wrong seat reminds me of something that happened.’ (to be continued)
where my sentence ends.
I have run out of words again.
Again my sentence ends
at a full stop.
Will you not take my waiting pen
at this full stop?
Then you and I shall write again.
But all I can give you
is my full stop,
and my waiting pen.
Sometimes life seems to come to a full stop. Something ends and we don’t know what comes next. Or perhaps we just recognise the need for a pause before we set out again
In something written – as with this piece – a full stop marks the end of one line of thought. If we are reading aloud, a full stop allows a breath – a pause – before we begin again. Full stops might seem to oppose the natural flow, but we need that breath. When writing it gives space to consider what it is we want to communicate and the ways we might do so. When reading we gain the time to take in what we have read: what is being said and what is its significance?
Like a piece of writing our life with God will have plenty of full stops. They exist not to impede our activity but to empower it. Some are like the ending of a chapter. We retire or change jobs, or move home, or experience the difficult ending of a relationship. Or perhaps the full stop feels more as if it is inside us: we sense it’s time to stop something that has been significant in our life. It’s time to move on. But to what? The pause invites us to let God in. We might be tempted to rush on to the next sentence – any old sentence – to avoid this uncomfortable halt in progress. But that would be a mistake. We need a deep breath of God; it will help us see where we have been going and where the road might now lead us.
Some full stops are smaller: not the end of a chapter or even a paragraph but a break within the activity of reading or writing. ‘Sometimes’ Etty Hillesum wrote in her journal, ‘the most important thing in our whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths or the turning aside in prayer for five minutes.’ These full stops are the intentional way we abide in Christ and draw life from Christ’s abiding in us. We have space to listen to the events of our day and what has been happening within us. We remember that we move forward together. As on the written page the stops are small but frequent. They help rather than hinder the flow of our activity, giving meaning and shape to what we do.
So as you write, or read, or live this day, put in the necessary punctuation.
Observing the Gospel
Francis did not set out to found an Order, people just followed him. As you will know there are three Franciscan Orders founded by Francis:
Three First Order: Order of Friars Minor, Order of Friars Minor Conventual, and Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
Second Order: The Poor Clare Sisters (founded by Francis and St Clare of Assisi).
The Third Order: Third Order Secular and the Third Order Regular, including many communities of sisters.
The First Order follow the same Rule but have different Constitutions.
The Second Order has its own Rule.
The Third Order Secular has its own Rule.
The Third Order Regular have their own Rules.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I want to make one point. Each of these Rules has one statement in common which reads:
To observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Note that the word observe has two meanings:
Observe – keep the rule – e.g. keep off the grass; keep the Rule and the Rule will keep you!
Observe – look at and see – and what you see put into practice.
It is the second meaning that Franciscans vow to observe when they make their vows and promise to observe the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
As did Francis: he looked at the Gospel, he looked at Christ and he endeavoured to put into practice what he saw in the Gospel, in Christ. That is the meaning of following Christ after the manner of Francis. That is being Franciscan.
Margaret McGrath FMSJ
8th August 2016
Alfie and Ajax were certainly changing, as T had observed. Inducing the Builder’s Dog to walk on duckweed was almost saying that which was not, and without Mrs Fox’s kind-hearted motive. Indeed motivation and emotions had bubbled up more and more frequently for the dogs as well as for T, frustrated in his mission to California.
On his return to Kent he was philosophical about it. ‘Not worth losing sleep over it. Let’s get back to Margate and regroup.’
For the dogs – or pseudo dogs – life was exhausting. People wanted to touch them, dogs wanted to chase them, cats hissed and spat. A far cry from the Ossyrian way of life, in atmospherically controlled dwelling pods, eating a scientifically designed diet, performing the social protocols according to seasons no-one had experienced since the Great Descent to the SubOceanic Halls and Pods.
Surface life on earth was painful and joyful in ways unknown in the plankton-lit world of Ossyria but how could they explain this to their co-citizens? How to describe an ache that was not a result of injury? The taste of forbidden food – and why was it forbidden? ‘A little of what you fancy does you good!’ Mrs Fox had said. The sensation of physical contact – at first unsettling, then craved. Alfie had grown to seek out Abel’s touch, and had taught Abel to be gentle by relaxing himself and thinking in tune with the little boy. There was little room for such fellow-feeling in the Pods, designed in long-ago desperate times for survival, not thriving. Why were all three less than anxious to return to their lives as Director, Droghmirrxz and Bogmerlg?
This follow-up report would be much more difficult to write than their first two had been.
Next week includes the feast of Saint Augustine of Hippo, so we had prepared reflections on Algeria, his homeland. But it would be wrong to offer these while ignoring recent events in Belgium, France and Germany. It would also be wrong to suggest that all is well in Algeria or anywhere else that Muslims and Christians live side by side. All too easily someone can assert the primacy of the ‘true faith’, as they perceive it, over love and mutual respect: it happens within communities as well as between them. Therefore I offer this week’s reflections on recent events as a preface to those on Algeria, prepared weeks ago to celebrate Augustine, recognised by Muslims as well as Christians as a great Algerian.
Women may have been seen as second-class humans in past ages, yet there have always been saints who stood aside from what society and family expected of them to live as God called them to.
While aristocratic women may have had more resources to be able to arrange this, they would have been lined up for profitable marriages arranged by others. Not necessarily a doorway to happiness or fulfilment at any level. We have already met the Saxon princesses Eanswythe and Mildred who were given the grace to hear the call and to convince others that they were doing God’s will by entering religious life. Clare was another such aristocrat, and an influence still felt today.
Let us pray to God our Father:
- for all Franciscan sisters especially those at the Franciscan International Study Centre;
- for all women and girls whose lives are limited by other people’s expectations and prejudices, whether in education, employment, life choices or female genital mutilation;
- for those men and women perpetuating the oppression of girls and women;
- for the Franciscan family around the world.
Saint Clare, Pray for us.
When we harvest chestnuts we roll the spiky husks underfoot. There is a just little work to be done to gather the harvest.
Once when Jesus was walking through the fields his disciples plucked a few ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands to eat the grain. They were young and no doubt hungry; a little work had to be done to gather their harvest.
And some of the Pharisees said to them: Why do you that which is not lawful on the Sabbath days?
And Jesus answering them, said: Have you not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was hungry, and they that were with him: How he went into the house of God, and took and ate the bread of proposition, and gave to them that were with him, which is not lawful to eat but only for the priests? And he said to them: The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath. Luke 6:2-5.
David’s men were young and hungry as well.
The principle of Sabbath rest is one we risk losing sight of with our 24/7 world, so I sympathise with the Pharisees, but here they seem more concerned with the letter of the law than its spirit. Strangely enough, Killer, the primary school teacher who condemned them most vehemently was a dragon when it came to keeping rules – and the Sabbath in particular!
Harvest Loaf, Franciscan International Study Centre,2014