Monday, October 4, 2010

St. Francis, Humility and Simplicity

by Steve Silva


Silva writes what follows: We know that St. Francis desired and believed his life to be an imitation of Jesus. His conviction that he was but an imitator preserved him from all temptation to pride, and enabled him to proclaim his views with incomparable vigor, without seeming in the least to be preaching himself. This is naturally explained by the fact that St. Francis never consented to occupy himself with questions of doctrine. For him faith was not of the intellectual but the moral domain; it is the consecration of the heart. St Francis said to his disciples:

"Let us consider that God in his goodness has not called us merely for our own salvation, but also for that of many men, that we may go through all the world exhorting men, more by our example than by our words, to repent of their sins and bear the commandments in mind. Be not fearful on the ground that we appear little and ignorant, but simply and without disquietude preach repentance. Have faith in God, who has overcome the world, that his Spirit will speak in you and by you, exhorting men to be converted and keep his commandments. "You will find men full of faith, gentleness, and goodness, who will receive you and your words with joy; but you will find others, and in greater numbers, faithless, proud, blasphemers, who will speak evil of you, resisting you and your words. Be resolute, then, to endure everything with patience and humility."

A long account by the Three Companions gives us a picture of these at preaching:

Many men took the friars for knaves or madmen and refused to receive them into their houses for fear of being robbed. So in many places, after having undergone all sorts of bad usage, they could find no other refuge for the night than the porticos of churches or houses. There were at that time two brethren who went to Florence. They begged all through the city but could find no shelter. Coming to a house which had a portico and under the portico a bench, they said to one another, "We shall be very comfortable here for the night." As the mistress of the house refused to let them enter, they humbly asked her permission to sleep upon the bench.

She was about to grant them permission when her husband appeared. "Why have you permitted these lewd fellows to stay under our portico?" he asked. The woman replied that she had refused to receive them into the house, but had given them permission to sleep under the portico where there was nothing for them to steal but the bench. The cold was very sharp; but taking them for thieves no one gave them any covering. As for them, after having enjoyed on their bench no more sleep than was necessary, warmed only by divine warmth, and having for covering only their Lady Poverty, in the early dawn they went to the church to hear mass.

The lady went also on her part, and seeing the friars devoutly praying she said to herself: "If these men were rascals and thieves as my husband said, they would not remain thus in prayer." And while she was making these reflections behold a man of the name of Guido was giving alms to the poor in the church. Coming to the friars he would have given a piece of money to them as to the others, but they refused his money and would not receive it. "Why," he asked, "since you are poor, will you not accept like the others?" "It is true that we are poor," replied Brother Bernardo, "but poverty does not weigh upon us as upon other poor people; for by the grace of God, whose will we are accomplishing, we have voluntarily become poor."

In his book "My utmost for His highest", Oswald Chambers says "We are too much given to thinking of the Cross as something we have to get through; we get through it only in order to get into it. The Cross stands for one thing only for us - a complete and entire and absolute identification with the Lord Jesus Christ, and there is nothing in which this identification is realized more than in prayer."

Let me conclude with these prayerful words written by St Francis:

Let us desire nothing else
let us wish for nothing else
let nothing else please us and cause us delight
except our Creator and Redeemer and Saviour,
the One True God, Who is the Fullness of Good,
all good, every good, the true and supreme Good;
Let nothing hinder us,
nothing separate us or nothing come between us

"My brothers, the Lord called me into the way of simplicity and humility, and this way He has pointed out to me for myself and for those who will believe and follow me.... The Lord told me he would have me poor and foolish in this world, . . . God will confound you by your own wisdom and learning, and, for all your fault-finding, bring you repentance whether you will or no."---St. Francis, source

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