Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Perfect Joy of St. Francis

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. 

Perfect Joy
    Finding himself stripped and naked before God, Francis burst forth in joyful song.  He went about through the wilderness singing in French the praises of God.  Now his vision was clearer and the entire world was transformed before his eyes.  He found that in imitation of the Poverty and Humility of His Lord Jesus Christ he had discovered the true nature of His Royalty.  Liberating trials and corresponding graces followed one another in quick succession.  He had become a son and heir of the Kingdom.  The more he overcame his lower inclinations, the more he realized that perfect joy is the life of pure truth and security in surrender.
    The liberating joy of the habitual conquering of oneself is at first only a mystic pleasure, but later it matures and caresses the created world.  The Cross would be a dismal thing indeed if Christ had not died upon it.  All suffering is grave and mournful until Christ is seen living in it.  Once one realizes that all the vague insecurities connected with some sacrifice are a mere deception of the mind, she can move forward with a confidence that was unavailable to her before.  Then the very matter of the sacrifice is returned to her as a free gift, unshackled by the taxes of futility.

    This is the experience of the Beatitudes.  One has the sensation of leaping from a cliff to, by all appearances, a certain death below, and then finding that she can tread air.  Once the desires for what we do not have cease to be needs, and the satisfaction in what we do have has been taken away, then we have the potential to enjoy everything in its original purpose and capacity.

   Saint Francis once described perfect joy as the disposition which can receive insult and injury without indignation.  He was not proposing that we should experience elation in pain and ridicule.  Rather he was pointing out that if we are poor and humble enough not to fabricate demands and expectations we can be secure in the reality of God’s loving care for us.  We already have all that we need, the eternal inheritance, and if we can only set aside our fear and take the risk we will realize perfection.

   A Poor Clare embarks on this journey in the footsteps of her Father Saint Francis.  She surrenders herself to God’s will in every passing trial and thus begins to understand what it means to be loved by Him.  Her confidence increases as she lets go of more and more of her defenses.  She is nearing the gate of Poverty.