Sunday, March 8, 2015

St. Francis and Obedience to the Church

Loyalty and Love for the Church
    After a small group of followers had gathered around him, God granted Francis a prophecy.  He showed him that his Order would grow and do much good.  With great joy Francis sent his brothers on their first mission, exhorting them to pursue holiness and preach repentance.  He wrote down the sacred words of the Holy Gospel for them in a simple and orderly manner as their rule of life, that they might better understand how they were to serve God and imitate the Lord.  As his influence spread Francis wished to express his filial obedience to the Roman Pontiff and the Holy Catholic Church.  So he and his brethren traveled to Rome where their form of life was confirmed by the Lord Pope Innocent III, who commissioned them to preach penance as the Lord would inspire them.
    When one is inspired with heavenly things there is always the danger of placing too much emphasis on one’s own revelation.  In Saint Francis time, as in our own, there were people who, in seeking personal sanctity, deviated from the communion of the faithful and the Church of Christ.  Saint Francis wished to make very clear that he was a loyal son of the Church, and he exhorted his followers to have a special love for the Church and reverence for the clergy.  Saint Clare herself was careful to promise obedience to the Lord Pope and his successors canonically elected.

    A Catholic has the conviction that the Catholic Church founded by Christ upon the Apostles is under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit.  A religious, therefore, of any order, who has been baptized into the Catholic Church, is first of all a Catholic and must obey the Church’s laws and teachings.  In the spirit of Saint Francis, and as a sign of her loyalty, a Poor Clare places herself in obedience under the protection of the Pope.  She must be grateful and value the Church’s guidance while safeguarding ancient traditions and values.  In the manner of a young squire who is devoted to his master’s household, Saint Francis and his followers are small but faithful servants in the Church.

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