Tag Archives: vision

9 October, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXXV: In a light of contemplation.

Picture from Christina Chase: Ste Anne de Beaupre.

Then Friar Leo, obedient, stood still and waited for him, with such fear that, as he afterwards told his companions, he would rather, at that moment, that the earth had swallowed him up than wait for Saint Francis, who he thought was angered with him; because with very great diligence he took heed not to offend his fatherhood, lest, through fault of his, Saint Francis should deprive him of his company.

When he had come up to him, Saint Francis asked him: “Who art thou?” and Friar Leo, all trembling, replied: “My father, I am Friar Leo”; and Saint Francis said unto him: “Wherefore didst thou come hither, friar little sheep? Did I not tell thee not to come and watch me? For holy obedience, tell me whether thou sawest or heardest aught.” Friar Leo replied: “Father, I heard thee speak and say many times: ‘Who art Thou, my most sweet God? What am I, most vile worm and Thine unprofitable servant?'” And then Friar Leo, kneeling down before St. Francis, confessed himself guilty of disobedience, in that he had done contrary to his commandment, and besought his pardon with many tears. And thereafter he prayed him devoutly that he would explain those words which he had heard, and would tell him those which he had not understood.

Then, seeing that to the humble Friar Leo God had revealed or granted to hear and to see certain things, by reason of his simplicity and purity, Saint Francis condescended to reveal and to explain unto him that which he asked; and he spake as follows: “Know, friar little sheep of Jesus Christ, that when I was saying those words which thou heardest, then were shown unto me two lights for my soul; the one of knowledge and understanding of my own self, the other of knowledge and understanding of the Creator. When I said: ‘Who art thou, O my most sweet God?’ then I was in a light of contemplation wherein I saw the abyss of the infinite goodness and wisdom and power of God; and when I said: ‘What am I?’ I was in a light of contemplation in the which I beheld the depth of my baseness and misery; and therefore I said: ‘Who art Thou, Lord of infinite goodness and wisdom, that deignest to visit me, that am a vile worm and abominable?’

And in that flame which thou sawest was God; who in that form spake with me, even as of old He spake unto Moses. And, among other things which He said unto me, He asked me to give Him three gifts; and I made answer: ‘Lord, I am all Thine; Thou knowest well that I have nothing beside the habit and the cord and the breeches, and even these three things are Thine; what then can I offer or give unto Thy majesty?’ Then God said unto me: ‘Search in thy bosom, and give Me that which thou findest therein’. I searched and found a ball of gold; and I offered it to God; and thus did I three times, even as God three times commanded me; and thereafter I kneeled me down three times and blessed and thanked God who had given me wherewith to offer Him. And straightway, it was given me to understand that these three offerings signified holy obedience, highest poverty and most resplendent chastity; the which God, through His grace, hath permitted me to observe so perfectly that my conscience accuseth me of nothing.

And as thou sawest me put my hands in my bosom and offer to God those three virtues symbolised by those three balls of gold, which God had placed in my bosom; so hath God given me such virtue in my soul that, for all the benefits and all the graces which He hath granted me of His most holy goodness, I ever praise and magnify Him with heart and mouth. These are the words which thou heardest when I thrice lifted up my hands, as thou sawest. But look to it, friar little sheep, that thou watch me no more; but return to thy cell with the blessing of God, and do thou have diligent care of me; because, a few days from now, God will do such great and marvellous things upon this mountain that all the world shall wonder thereat; for He will do certain new things, the which He hath never done unto any creature in this world.”

And, when he had spoken these words, he caused the book of the Gospels to be brought unto him; for God had put it in his mind that, by the opening of the book of the Gospels three times, that which it was the will of God to do unto him should be revealed. 

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8 October, Little Flowers LXXXIV: A voice from the flame.

We have not read from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis for months, perhaps because we have been nearing the end of the book. Let’s make up for that by starting the account of the imprinting of the Stigmata. Francis at this time is living solitary a little way from the rest of the order. Brother Leo is his chief point of contact with his brethren; he used to recite the office with Francis – if Francis responded to his salutation …

Coming to the third reflection on the seraphic vision and the imprinting of the most holy Stigmata; as the time of the feast of the most holy Cross drew near, (14 September), one night Brother Leo went to the wonted place and at the wonted hour for to say Matins with Saint Francis, and when he said Domine, labia mea aperies* from the bridge-head as was his wont, Saint Francis made no answer. Brother Leo did not go back again, as Saint Francis had given him commandment; but with a good and holy intention, he crossed the bridge and entered softly into his cell, and not finding him, he thought that he might be praying somewhere in the wood; wherefore he came out again, and by the light of the moon went softly searching through the wood. At last he heard the voice of Saint Francis, and, drawing near, saw him on his knees in prayer, with face and hands raised up to Heaven; and in fervour of spirit he was saying: “Who art thou, O most sweet my God? What am I, most vile worm and Thine unprofitable servant?” And these words he said again and again, and spake no word beside.

Brother Leo, marvelling thereat, lifted up his eyes unto heaven, and as he looked, he saw coming down from heaven a torch of flame exceeding beautiful and bright, which, descending, rested on the head of Saint Francis; and out of the flame there came a voice that spake with Saint Francis, but Brother Leo could not understand the words. Hearing this, and deeming himself unworthy to stand so close to the holy place where that wondrous apparition was revealed, and fearing moreover to offend Saint Francis and disturb him in his contemplation, if perchance he should perceive him, he softly drew back, and standing afar off, waited to see the end: and gazing with eyes fixed, he saw Saint Francis stretch out his hands three times to the flame: and after a long space of time he saw the flame return to heaven.

Gladdened by the vision, he softly turned away to go to his cell again. And as he was going softly, deeming himself unseen, Saint Francis was aware of him by the rustling of the leaves beneath his feet, and bade him wait for him, and not to move.

* The first words of Morning Prayer (Matins): Lord, open my lips (and my mouth will declare thy praise.)

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26 August: final gain

Break upon our blindness with Thy light.
Show us, whatever we deem loss,
That love is final gain.


Alistair Maclean gathered the reflections we have shared these last few days from the ordinary people of the Hebrides where he was a Church of Scotland minister, and clearly a good listener. His mysticism is not superficial feel-good stuff, but is born of love of God and the world he has entrusted to us.

from Hebridean Altars, 1937.

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28 May: a Little Child shall lead them, Before the Cross XXVI.

Elham Church, Kent.

We walked to Elham on the recommendation of our daughter; we were not disappointed. Firstly, to find the King’s Arms open and ready to sell us good beer which we enjoyed in the square in the full Spring sunshine. And then there was the church, also open, ready to sell us good second-hand books, and ready to give us plenty to reflect upon.

These Easter Lilies were placed before a Madonna and child, but a very Paschal, Easter-minded Madonna and child. Two years ago we looked at a portrait of Mary and baby Jesus in a pieta-like pose, and I urge you to revisit that post now, to complement this one.

That old post considered two paintings from the studio of Rogier van de Weyden, of the mid-XV Century, the Madonna and a Pieta. In each Mary is tenderly holding her son, whose pose as a baby matches that of his lifeless corpse. This is not what our artist in Elham has in view. Jesus may be four years old here, a boy, not a baby, but still dependent on Mary and Joseph for everything.

The boy is very much alive, yet he is standing as if practising for his work on the Cross. He is lightly supported by his mother; at this age he can walk for himself, but that gentle uplift is reassuring. As for Mary, not for the last time she ponders these things in her heart, the heart pierced by the sword of sorrow.

Jesus is about to step forth from her lap. Any parent will know the excitement and trepidation of following a small child, where are they going, what dangers can we perceive that they do not? But letting them lead us is part of growth for the child and also for the parent who is offered the chance to see the world through fresh eyes.

Mary could not prevent the death of Jesus on the Cross but she was there to welcome him on the third day. Isaiah tells us that a little child shall lead them: may we follow him through all life’s trials to our resurrection in his Kingdom.

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9 May, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXIV: returned to himself

And as Brother John with such words lay at the feet of Christ, his prayer was heard, and he received from Him the first grace, to wit the flame of love divine, and he felt altogether renewed and comforted and knowing within himself that the gift of divine grace had returned to him again, he began to give thanks unto the blessed Christ and devoutly kiss His feet.

As he rose up, to gaze upon the face of Christ, Jesu Christ stretched out His most holy hands for him to kiss; and when that Brother John had kissed them, he drew near and leaned upon the breast of Jesu and embraced and kissed Him; and Christ in like manner embraced and kissed him. And in this kiss and this embrace, Brother John perceived ao divine a fragrance, that had all the fragrant spices and all the sweet-smelling things of ail the earth been gathered together, they would have seemed but as a stench in comparison with that fragrance. Brother John was right well illumined and consoled, and that fragrance remained within his soul for many months. And thenceforth, from out hia mouth that had drunk of the fountain of divine wisdom in the sacred breast of the Saviour, there came forth marvellous and celestial words, that change the hearts of men and brought forth rich fruit of souls in those who heard them.
And in the little path in the wood, whereon the blessed feet of Christ had stood, and for a great space all around, did Brother John always perceive that fragrance and behold that splendour, whene’er he fared thither, and for a long time thereafter. When Brother John returned to himself again after this ecstasy, and the bodily presence of Christ had disappeared, he remained so illumined in his soul, from the abyss of His divinity, that albeit he was not a man learned through human study, yet in marvellous fashion he solved and explained the most subtle and lofty questions touching the divine Trinity, and the deep mysteries of the Holy Scripture. And oftentimes thereafter, when he spake before the pope, and the cardinals, and the king, and his barons, and the masters, and doctors, they were all amazed at the lofty words and the profound thoughts that he spake.

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8 May, Little flowers of Saint Francis LXXIII: fervour and desire.

the narrow ath

But since the desire of holy men, when God delays to hear, doth kindle in them greater love and merit, Christ, the blessed One, departed without hearing him, and without him speaking to him aught at all, and he went by the little pathway aforesaid. Then Brother John arose, and ran after Him, and once again threw himself at His feet, and with holy importunity held Him back, and with most devout tears besought Him, and said: “O most sweet Jesu Christ, have mercy upon me in my trouble; hear me for the multitude of Thy mercies, and for the truth of Thy salvation, and give back to me the joy of Thy countenance and Thy glance of pity, for the whole world is full of Thy mercy.
And still Christ departed and spake naught unto him, nor gave him any comfort; and He dealt with him even as a mother with her child, when she makes him desire the breast and makes him run behind weeping, to the end that he may thereafter receive it the more willingly. Brother John still followed Christ with greater fervour and desire; and when he was come close up to Him, the blessed Christ turned and looked upon him with a glad countenance and gracious; and opening His most holy and most pitying arms, embraced him very tenderly; and as He opened thus His arms, Brother John saw streaming from the most sacred breast of the Saviour rays of shining light, which illumined all the wood and him likewise, both in body and soul.
Then Brother John kneeled him down at the feet of Christ, and the blessed Christ of His loving kindness gave him His foot to kiss, as He did to the Magdalene; and Brother John holding it and with all reverence, bathed it with so many tears that he seemed a second Magdalene, saying devoutly:

‘I pray Thee, Lord, that Thou look not on my sins, but by Thy most holy passion and by the shedding of Thy most holy blood, revive my soul in the grace of Thy love, sith this is Thy commandment, that we love Thee with all our heart and with all our soul, the which commandment none can keep without Thy help. Help me then, most beloved Son of God, that I may love Thee with all my heart and with all my strength.”

This is a prayer any Christian could make their own; we do not ask to see the distant scene, let alone be assumed into it.

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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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19 February. Little Flowers LXVI: Brother John’s journey, 2.

flowers.francis.illustration

 

As Brother John was praying devoutly one day, and weeping and lamenting that his life’s pilgrimage was so much prolonged, there appeared unto him Christ, the blessed One, and spake thus unto him: “My son, Brother John, ask of me whatsoever thou wilt”; and he replied : “My Lord, naught do I desire save Thee: but for this alone do I pray Thee, that Thou forgive me all my sins, and grant me grace to see Thee yet another time, when I have the greater need thereof.” Jesu said: “Thy prayer is granted.” And He was away, and Brother John remained altogether comforted.

At length, the brothers of the March hearing of the fame of his sanctity, prevailed with the General to bid him by holy obedience return to the March and he receiving this obedience, set out joyfully on his way, bethinking him that, done this journey, he needs would go to heaven, according to the promise of Christ, But when he had returned to the Province of the March, lie lived therein for thirty years.
Brother John, who was a man of cheerful and tranquil mind, spake but seldom, and was much given to prayer and devotion, and above all after Matins he would not return to his cell, but would continue in prayer in the church until daylight. While he was thus praying one night after Matins, the Angel of God appeared unto him, saying: “Brother John, now is finished thy journey, for the which thou hast waited so long; wherefore, in the name of God, I announce unto thee that thou mayest ask whatsoever grace thou wilt. And likewise I announce unto thee that thou mayest choose which thou wilt, — one day in Purgatory, or seven days’ pain on earth.”

And Brother John choosing rather the seven days’ pain on earth, straightway fell sick of divers infirmities; for a grievous fever seized him, and gout in his hands and his feet, and pains in his side, and many other ills but what was more grievous to him was that a devil stood before him and held in his hand a great scroll, whereon were written all the sins that he had ever done or thought, and said to him: “For these sins that thou hast done in thought, word, and deed, art thou damned to the depths of hell,” And he could not call to mind any good deed that he had ever done, either in the Order or elsewhere, and so he thought that he was damned, even as the devil said.

Here is Brother John’s vulnerability again, taking the devil’s word literally. I wonder if he’d be classed as autistic today, but clearly, to an onlooker, he is suffering from the temptation to despair over his own misdeeds. Tomorrow comes a friend-in-need.

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18 February, Little Flowers LXV: Brother John’s journey 1.

gap7a

Brother John’s earthly pilgrimage held a few surprises; it certainly turned out to be a much longer journey than he expected, but what boy can comprehend an adult life? This bridge is said to have been crossed by Saint Francis himself; it is at Gap, not many miles from Provence; perhaps Brother John crossed it too!

Brother John of La Penna was a boy in the Province of the March and still living the secular life, there appeared unto him one night a child exceeding beautiful, and called him, saying: “John, go unto Saint Stephen’s, where is preaching one of the Brothers Minor, give heed unto his words, seeing that I have sent him thither, and this done, thou hast a long journey to take, and then shalt thou come unto me.”

Straightway he arose and felt a great change within his soul. And coming to Saint Stephen’s, he found there a great multitude gathered to hear the preaching, He that was to preach was Brother Philip, and he preached exceeding devoutly, not with words of human wisdom, but by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, making known the kingdom of eternal life.

The boy went to Brother Philip, and said unto him: “Father, if it please thee to receive me into the Order, I would do penance willingly and serve our Lord Jesu Christ.” Brother Philip recognizing in the boy a right marvellous innocence and ready will to serve God,
said unto him: “Thou shalt come to me on such a day at Recanati, and I will have thee received”.
The boy, being very pure in heart, thought that this would be the long journey that he was to take, according to the revelation that he had had, and that thereafter he would go to Paradise; and so he thought to do straightway after he had been received into the Order. So he went and was received: but perceiving that his thoughts were not fulfilled at that time, and the Minister in Chapter saying that whoso desired to go into the province of Provence, for the merit of holy obedience, would have leave granted to him willingly, there came to him a great desire to go there, thinking in his heart that that would be the long journey that he must take, before he went to Paradise.

He besought Brother Philip tenderly that he would obtain for him this favour of going to the province of Provence. Then Brother Philip, seeing his purity and his holy purpose, obtained for him leave: so Brother John, with great joy, set out upon his way, bethinking him that, done this journey, he would go to Paradise.

But sith it pleased God, he abode in the said province five and twenty years in that expectation and desire, shewing himself a pattern of holy life, increasing always in virtue and favour with God and the people, and was exceeding much beloved by the brothers and by those in the world.

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13 February, Little Flowers LXIII, Brother Conrad’s Prayers.

cross.st.nick.cathedral

A while after his conversion the youth aforesaid died, sith it was the will of God; whereof the said brothers were sore grieving; and a few days after his death his soul appeared unto Brother Conrad as he was devoutly praying before the altar, and saluted him devoutly as a father; and Brother Conrad asked him; “Who art thou?” He answered: “I am the soul of that young brother that died in these days,” Quoth Brother Conrad: “0 my son most dear, how is it with thee?” He answered: “By the grace of God and your admonishments, it is well; seeing that I am not damned, but for certain of my sins, whereof I had not time sufficiently to purge me, I suffer the grievous pains of Purgatory: but I pray thee, father, that even as of thy pity thou didst succour me whilst yet I lived, so now thou wilt be pleased to help me in my pains, saying a Paternoster for me; sith thy prayer is much acceptable in the sight of God.”

Then Brother Conrad consenting gently unto his prayers, and saying the Paternoster once for him and the Requiem Æternam, quoth that soul: “O father most dear, what blessedness and sweet refreshment do I feel! I pray thee that thou say it once again.” And Brother Conrad said it: and when that it was said, quoth the soul: “Holy father, when thou prayest for me I feel my pains assuaged; wherefore I do beseech thee that thou cease not praying for me.”

Brother Conrad, seeing that this soul was so much helped by his prayers, said for him a hundred Paternosters; and when that they were said, quoth the soul; “I thank thee, father most dear, in the name of God, for the love that thou hast shown me; for through thy prayers am I set free from all my pains, and now am I going to the celestial kingdom” and this said, the soul was away. Then Brother Conrad, for to give joy and comfort to the brethren, told them this vision in order. And thus the soul of that youth went to Paradise through the merits of Brother Conrad

We will reflect on this story tomorrow.

WT

 

 

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