perfect joy

On a cold winter’s day, Saint Francis walked with Brother Leo from Perugia to the Porziuncola. Because of their poverty, they suffered much in the cold. At one point, Saint Francis said to Brother Leo: “If God desired that the Friars Minor should serve as a great example of holiness to all people in all lands, please write down that this would not be perfect joy.” At some point later in their journey, Saint Francis said to Brother Leo: “If the Friars Minor could make the lame walk; if we could straighten the crooked; if we could chase away demons; if we could give sight to the blind and speech to the dumb; and even if we could raise the dead after four days, please write down and note carefully that this would not be perfect joy.”

Soon after, Saint Francis said to Brother Leo: “If the Friars Minor could speak every language; if they knew everything about science; if they could explain all the scriptures; if they could predict the future and reveal the secrets of every soul, please write down and note carefully that this would not be perfect joy.” After a few more steps, Saint Francis cried: “Brother Leo, little one of God! If the Friars Minor could sing like angels; if they could explain the movements of the stars; if they knew everything about all animals, birds, fish, plants, stones, trees, and all men, please write down and note carefully that this would not be perfect joy.” Finally, Saint Francis cried again: “Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor could preach and thus convert every person to faith in Christ, please write down and note carefully that even this is not perfect joy.”

When this manner of discourse lasted for several miles, Brother Leo, who had been thinking about these sayings, asked: “Father Francis, I pray that you will teach me about perfect joy.” Saint Francis answered: “If we arrive at the Porziuncola and if we are drenched with rain and trembling with cold, covered in mud and exhausted from hunger; and if we knock on the convent gate; and if we are not recognized by the porter; and if he tells us that we are impostors who seek to deceive the world and steal from the poor; and if he refuses to open the gate; and if he leaves us outside, exposed to the rain and snow, suffering from cold and hunger; then if we embrace the injustice, cruelty, and contempt with patience, without complaining; and if we believe in faith, love, and humility that the porter knew us but was told by God to reject us, then, my dear Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this also is perfect joy!”

Saint Francis then said: “Brother Leo, if we knock again and if the porter drives us away with curses and blows; and if he accuses us of robbery and other crimes; and if we embrace this with patience without complaining; and if we believe in faith, love, and humility that the porter knew us but was told by God to reject us again, then, my dear Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this is finally perfect joy!” Saint Francis said once more: “If urged by cold and hunger, we knock again; if we call again to the porter; if we plead to him with many tears to open the gate and to give us shelter out of love for God; and if he returns more angry than ever; and if he calls us annoying rascals and beats us with a knotted stick; and if he throws us to the ground, rolls us in the snow, and beats us again with the knotted stick; and if we bear these injuries with patience without complaining; and if we think upon the sufferings of our Blessed Crucified Lord, then, most beloved Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this, finally, is perfect joy!”

from The Little Flowers of St. Francis

Image result for st. francis of assisi

a Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with discomfort
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Canticle of Brother Sun

Today I give thanks for il poverello, St. Francis of Assisi, who introduced himself to me many years ago when I touched the stone walls of his home town; who turned my eyes to heaven on a cold, cold Feast of the Epiphany at his place of prayer and transformation, Mt. Laverna. He continues to teach and guide me every day.

(photo: Solvang, CA – December 2017)

The Canticle of Brother Sun

Most High, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is Yours, all glory, all honour and all blessings.
To you alone, Most High, do they belong, and no mortal lips are worthy to pronounce Your Name.
Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.
Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.
Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.
Blessed are those who endure in peace, By You Most High, they will be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord through Sister Death,
from whom no-one living can escape. Woe to those who die in mortal sin! Blessed are they She finds doing Your Will.
No second death can do them harm. Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks,
And serve Him with great humility.

Vin Santo

that New Year’s Eve
we stood on the hill
above the vineyard

watching fireworks
rise above the lake
from Pieve to Anghiari

later in the stillness
of the barn the cat chasing
our shadows on the wall

a moment so full
if today we could talk
we’d agree we had no better

earlier at the bar in Caprese
Michelangelo we couldn’t decide
what to drink to the new year

vin santo an old man said
holding up his glass
certo vin santo

Photo: Casa Singerna, Caprese Michelangelo, IT – January 2005 – J. Dewaters