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

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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.

The Feast of St. Francis of Assisi

From “The Life of St. Francis:”

At the hour of the passing of the holy man, the larks – birds that love the light, and dread the shades of twilight – flocked in great numbers unto the roof of the house, albeit the shades of night were then falling, and wheeling around it for a long while with songs even gladder than their wont, offered their witness, alike gracious and manifest, unto the glory of the Saint, who had been wont to call them unto the divine praises.

Pace e bene to us all.

St. Francis of Assisi

No photo description available.

There are many images of St. Francis of Assisi. This small work was in a classroom at The Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley. I saw it most every day for the three years I was there. When I think of St. Francis, and I often do, this is who I see.

St. Francis, pray for us.

This evening, followers of St. Francis of Assisi will keep a memorial of his passing on October 3, 1226. I pray that his spirit of reconciliation and love for all creation bless each one of us.

Blessing of St. Francis –
May God bless you and keep you, smiling graciously on you, granting mercy and peace, granting mercy and peace. May God bless you and keep you, May you see the face of God, granting mercy and peace, granting mercy and peace. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Franciscan Feast of The Stigmata

FB_IMG_1568764509726.jpgToday Franciscans around the world celebrate the Feast of the Stigmata, remembering the wounds of Christ imprinted on the body of St. Francis. The event is symbolic of Francis’s life. He suffered greatly and was profoundly misunderstood but his unwavering commitment to a God of unconditional love marked his life. Saints are not made in stain-glass windows. They are forged in the fires of rejection, displacement, perseverance and darkness because God is being born within. To live in Christ is to bear the weight of the world in evolution.

– Ilia Delio

St. Francis of Assisi and the whole of creation

Through his life in Christ, Francis came to see that Christ cannot be limited to a single human person; rather, Christ encompasses the whole creation. Nowhere is this more evident than in his Canticle of the Creatures. By entering into the heart of Christ, Francis found Christ at the heart of the world. The life of Francis indicates to us that to be a Christian is to find Christ in every person and living creature, and to be in union with Christ is to experience God’s goodness throughout creation, not just in a church. Christ, the risen incarnate Word of God, encompasses the whole creation.

—from the book The Humility of God: A Franciscan Perspective  by Ilia Delio, OSF

(photo: Assisi, Italy – January 2005)

Epiphany on Mount La Verna – the spiritual touchstone of St. Francis of Assisi

January 6, 2005 – The Feast of The Epiphany – The wind had blown around our barn for two or three hours before dawn. But as the sun appeared above the mountains to the east the winds stopped and wood smoke settled into the valley. Occasionally, the crack of a shotgun from bird hunters would echo through the hills. Soon, even the hunters and their dogs would be still.
It is the morning of the Feast of The Epiphany. Quiet prevails.
We are driving to Mount La Verna to celebrate Mass. It is not much more than eight or nine miles from our door to the road leading to the sanctuary – if we could drive in a straight line. But there are no straight roads in these hills so that eight or nine mile drive will take us 45 minutes. The residents of Caprese Michelangelo, Lama, Fragaiolo, Monte Foresto, and Assunzione, some no more than four or five dwellings and a small church, are still watching their children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews opening gifts, for Epiphany is the day for gift-giving in this part of Italy.
We climb out of the valley, switchback after switchback. Halfway to La Verna and we are on the spine of a ridge and can look down into the valleys on either side of the road. We are now above the clouds, mist, and wood smoke that we had occasionally driven through. Back towards San Giustino, Citta’ di Castello, Perugia, and Assisi the mist and smoke is streaming through the valley like a great river. It tumbles into deeper valleys in vast cascades.
I stop the car. We need to take this in – this blessing – this grace-filled landscape we move through.
The parking lot at The Sanctuary of La Verna is nearly full when we arrive. Children with their parents and grandparents, all in their best holiday clothes, walk through the groves of beech trees to the cluster of old buildings that make up the Sanctuary. The January sun stays low on the horizon. The shadows from the tree branches are sharp and focused. The air is cold and pure.
In the Basilica for Mass, we are all cold but happy to huddle shoulder to shoulder. I think I can see my breath as I whisper my responses in english. There are joyful faces, joyful beings gathered in line to receive the Eucharist. I eat the bread and drink the wine and my body is filled with the familiar, indescribable warmth.
When Mass has ended, we all go into the paizzalle. People are laughing. A boy is playing guitar. People gather around the great cross that seems to be rooted in the very heart of the world, singing and chattering like a flock of birds.