Sunday, September 14, 2014

St. Francis and the Urgency of Love

On October 4th we will celebrate the Solemnity of our Holy Father St. Francis.  In order to prepare for this great celebration, during these next few weeks I would like to share a series of reflections on his life, written by one of our novitiate Sisters. The purpose of this study is to introduce the reader to our Poor Clare Spirituality through the lens of the edifying life of our holy founder, Saint Francis of Assisi. 

Christ spoke to St. Francis from the Cross
"Francis, go rebuild My Church"
The Urgency of Love
    Once Francis began to receive the message of God, the vigor with which he had previously sought vanity was now given in full to the commands of his Lord.  His heart was aflame with love and understanding.  Whenever he had perceived the true meaning of the Gospel he could not rest until he had conformed himself to it.  In this way the grace of conversion bore fruit in him.
   The Poor Clare vocation can never be followed half-heartedly.  In order to embrace such a life of supreme generosity one must be strongly motivated by love and God’s grace.  Yet a Poor Clare soon finds that she is grasping, not for the fulfillment of some ideal or desire, but for God’s Holy Will.  She thirsts for His Will to be done in her.  For her not a day, not even a moment can pass that is not in absolute conformity to God’s Will.

   Thus, for the Poor Clare, as for Saint Francis, there is an urgency which can never be ignored.  The Gospel requires an immediate and dedicated response.  All her strength and energy must be expended in adoring obedience to her Divine Lord.  Moreover, nothing is trivial, no act is unimportant once it has been touched by the Sacred Truth of God’s Will.

Espousal of the Kingdom
    Francis had identified a mysterious treasure which he himself did not yet fully understand.  His romantic and chivalrous heart courted this Mystery in generous patience.  He perceived that the surrender and ardent gift of his whole self was mystically akin to that sacrament by which a man and a woman become one flesh. Thus he considered his devotion and fervent pursuit of this treasure to be a matter of fidelity, and his service and outward deeds to be an expression of fealty.
    One of the first movements of the Spirit revealed in a soul who has been given a vocation to become a follower of Saint Francis in his Second Order is the call to exclusive intimacy.  She perceives that she is not intended to make the sacred gift of herself to a man; indeed, she finds that she is already not her own.  She has been chosen by a Spouse who gently urges her to accept Him.  He courts her by holding before her eyes a veiled bouquet in which she barely sees the splendor of sanctity shining from within.  Her Mysterious Lover whispers His Truth in her ear and she finds a wonderful resonance in her heart assuring her that this truth is already present there preparing to receive this Bridegroom.  Her response, then, is a “yes” to His Proposal.

The Means of the Spirit
    Receiving a commission from the Lord to repair His Church, Francis fervently sought to fulfill it with the material means at his disposal.  Yet the world does not take kindly to one who attempts to expend its resources for things of the spirit, and Francis immediately met with opposition.  In the simplicity of his heart Francis would have liked to give the world as a gift to his Beloved, but when he found that he was not in possession of that world, he was confused and afraid.  His weakness prevented him from seeing clearly what was his to give.  Through suffering, patience, and self-restraint he was unknowingly freed of the many reservations which kept him from giving himself.  Finding that he was in possession of a new liberty, he proceeded with joyful confidence to renounce the futile use of wealth and sought rather by the labor of his hands and the sweat of his brow to render service to his Beloved.
    When one senses within herself the invitation to a Poor Clare vocation, she may at first think that the gift she is to give is the sacrifice of worldly pleasures and the selfish use of her personal talents.  She sees herself placing in the hands of her Lord all that she could have had and could have been.  When suffering comes she welcomes it as the natural consequence of her self-abnegation.  Yet as she is stripped of exterior things she finds to her amazement that there is something left.  Her being does not consist of those things which she has given to her Lord.  Indeed, she finds that the garments of future pleasure which she has cast aside are mere rags compared with the robes of true beauty with which her Lord now gently adorns her.

    She finds that she is the beneficiary of a gracious Bridegroom Who, rather than taking these external gifts, delights in drawing out the pure bride He alone could see in her.  Now she realizes that the future possibilities she had so generously given were a mere abstraction, and the reality of her self-gift is far better.

   In this way the follower of Saint Francis experiences the same truth which he was taught by his Divine Master.  She strives more and more to give her self, all her thoughts and all her moments, to her Lord, and to surrender more and more to His Loving Gift.  Finally she realizes that her own true peace and perfect joy are the gift required by her vocation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! These words express the truth and beauty of the religious vocation and Franciscan spirituality, thank you.