Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

For the Feast of St. John of Capistrano's today

St John Capistrano was known as the defender of the rights of God preaching throughout Europe and fought many heresies and led the Christians troops against the invading Muslims. Ave Maria!

Today, Oct. 23rd, is the Feast of St. John Capistrano, Franciscan priest, the Soldier Saint

Today, October 23, we celebrate the feast day of Saint John of Capistrano (1386-1456), “the Soldier Saint,” confessor, acclaimed preacher, miracle worker, and crusader. Saint John lived at a time of difficulty and despair across Europe, having just suffered the plague, currently embattled in several wars, and attacks from Muslim forces of the East. Similarly, the Church was embroiled in battles regarding the identity of the pope (as schisms had created three separate individuals identified as pope), and the Franciscan Order was similarly divided. Saint John was a man of hope and action. His deep Christian optimism and complete faith in the Lord drove him to attack problems at all levels with the confidence engendered by trust in Christ.

John was born at Capistrano in the Italian Province of the Abruzzi. His father, who died while John was quite young, had been a well-respected German knight. John received a thorough education, seen to by his mother. As a student, John excelled, leading to immediate career successes. He became a lawyer and was granted the position of governor of Perugia at the young age of 26. He fought corruption and bribery and became renowned for his high ethical standards and commitment to justice.

When war broke out between Perugia and Malatesta in 1416, John tried to broker peace between the regions. Unfortunately, his efforts led only to his imprisonment. During his time in prison, while he had plenty of time for contemplation, John felt a deep spiritual stirring within in, vowing to change his life for the better upon his release. Shortly thereafter, following the death of his wife, he entered the order of Friars Minor, was ordained a priest, and began to lead a very penitential life.

John became a disciple of Saint Bernadine of Siena and was immediately recognized for his sermons and ability to touch the hearts of those who listened to him. As an Itinerant priest throughout Italy, Germany, Bohemia, Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Russia, Saint John preached to tens of thousands. He reportedly healed the sick by making the Sign of the Cross over them. He also wrote extensively, mainly against the heresies of the day. His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. Together with Saint Bernadine of Siena, Saint John spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and Mary, Mother of God.

History tells us, “Saint John traversed the whole of Italy; and so great were the crowds who came to listen to him that he often had to preach in the public squares. At the time of his preaching all business stopped. At Brescia, on one occasion he preached to a crowd of one hundred and twenty-six thousand people, who had come from all the neighboring provinces. On another occasion during a mission over two thousand sick people were brought to him that he might sign them with the Sign of the Cross, so great was his fame as a healer of the sick.”

When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, Saint John was commissioned (at age 70) by Pope Callistus II to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Barefoot and dressed in his humble robe, Saint John visited the kings of Europe, uniting them and their armies against the invading forces. He led an army of 70,000 Christian soldiers to Belgrade, and when it appeared that they were outmatched by the Muslim army, he ran to the front lines. Holding his crucifix up high, this thin, small old man kept crying, "Victory, Jesus, victory!" Full of courage in Christ, the Christian army won an overwhelming victory and freeing the city from siege. Worn out by his age and efforts, Saint John succumbed to the infections present on the battlefield and died several months later. “An infinity of miracles” followed his death.

Saint John of Capistrano was a man of action, who gave up a successful and lucrative career and life to follow Christ. His commitment to the Word of God reminds us that the highest goal of this life is not worldly honors, but union with God in heaven. On his tomb in the Austrian town of Villach, the following message is inscribed: "This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven."

From the writings of Saint John of Capistrano:

“Those who are called to the table of the Lord must glow with the brightness that comes from the good example of a praiseworthy and blameless life. They must completely remove from their lives the filth and uncleanness of vice. Their upright lives must make them like the salt of the earth for themselves and for the rest of mankind. The brightness of their wisdom must make them like the light of the world that brings light to others. They must learn from their eminent teacher, Jesus Christ, what he declared not only to his apostles and disciples, but also to all the priests and clerics who were to succeed them, when he said, “You are the salt of the earth. But what is salt goes flat? How can you restore its flavor? Then it is good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Jesus also said: “You are the light of the world.” Now a light does not illumine itself, but instead it diffuses its rays and shines all around upon everything that comes into its view. So it must be with the glowing lives of upright and holy clerics. By the brightness of their holiness they must bring light and serenity to all who gaze upon them. They have been placed here to care for others. Their own lives should be an example to others, showing how they must live in the house of the Lord.”

you raised up Saint John of Capistrano
to give your people comfort in their trials.
May your Church enjoy unending peace
and be secure in your protection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The letter of St John Capistrano to St Colette
November 1442
StJohnCapistranoFulda school 1766
It can be your greatest friends that cause you the greatest anguish. St John wanted Colette to join his reform of the Franciscan order, accept his constitutions and submit to the jurisdiction of the friars he would appoint as visitators. He was full of sincere enthusiasm for the restoration of the Franciscan order - but he was not a Poor Clare and he had never lived the life Colette professed. Colette and her sisters prayed desperately to God that God would enlighten John’s heart and mind. And God did. John completely reversed his position. Not only did he not interfere with the life of the Sisters he place the Friars who had joined Colette’s reform under her jurisdiction and empowered her to appoint her own visitators. This is unique in Church legislation!

To Sister Colette of the Order of St. Clare, entirely devoted to Christ our Lord, our very dear daughter in the heart of the Spouse of virgins, John Capistran of the Order of Minors, on the part of the Apostolic See and the Most Reverend Father General wishes health and everlasting peace in the Lord.

Desiring, with a father’s affection, to console you in the Lord, I ratify and I confirm by these letters present, and declare ratified and confirmed all the favours which the Most Reverend Minister-General has accorded you and your chaplain, Pierre de Vaux, and the chaplains of the convents of nuns which you have built and will build

I declare that you have power to appoint one or more friars of our Order to fill the office of Visitator of the nuns in the said convents, or of friars who live in monasteries (of your way of life). To these friars so chosen, in virtue of these letters present, I accord and declare accorded the same faculties and the same power that preceding Ministers General have heretofore given these Visitators.

I ordain, in virtue of holy obedience, that the friars so named accept, the office of Visitator with respect, and that they fulfil it with diligence and devotion.

Given by me, at Besançon,
the eighth day of the month of November,
in the year of our Lord, 1442.

Brother John Capistrano, Commissary General

St. Anthony in Frescoes

By the Poor Clare nuns of Galway, Ireland. A beautiful video on frescoes of St. Anthony of Padua and a short description of the event and/or miracle.

Monday, October 21, 2013

For the Feast of St. Peter of Alcantara

On the memorial of St. Peter of Alcantara (Oct. 19th), Fr. George preached on this Franciscan's remarkable life of extreme penance and lofty contemplation, and explains that although many can't imitate his austerities, we must strive to live a continual life of penance and sacrifice.
Ave Maria!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Today is the Feast Day of St. Peter of Alcantara

Born at Alcántara, Spain, 1499; died 18 Oct., 1562. His father, Peter Garavita, was the governor of the place, and his mother was of the noble family of Sanabia. After a course of grammar and philosophy in his native town, he was sent, at the age of fourteen, to the University of Salamanca. Returning home, he became a Franciscan in the convent of the Stricter Observance at Manxaretes in 1515. At the age of twenty-two he was sent to found a new community of the Stricter Observance at Badajoz. He was ordained priest in 1524, and the following year made guardian of the convent of St. Mary of the Angels at Robredillo. A few years later he began preaching with much success. He preferred to preach to the poor; and his sermons, taken largely from the Prophets and Sapiential Books, breathe the tenderest human sympathy. The reform of the "Discalced Friars" had, at the time when Peter entered the order, besides the convents in Spain, the Custody of Sta. Maria Pietatis in Portugal, subject to the General of the Observants. 

Having been elected minister of St. Gabriel's province in 1538, Peter set to work at once. At the chapter of Plasencia in 1540 he drew up the Constitutions of the Stricter Observants, but his severe ideas met with such opposition that he renounced the office of provincial and retired with John of Avila into the mountains of Arabida, Portugal, where he joined Father Martin a Santa Maria in his life of eremitical solitude. Soon, however, other friars came to join him, and several little communities were established. Peter being chosen guardian and master of novices at the convent of Pallais. In 1560 these communities were erected into the Province of Arabida. Returning to Spain in 1553 he spent two more years in solitude, and then journeyed barefoot to Rome, and obtained permission of Julius III to found some poor convents in Spain under the jurisdiction of the general of the Conventuals. Convents were established at Pedrosa, Plasencia, and elsewhere; in 1556 they were made a commissariat, with Peter as superior, and in 1561, a province under the title of St. Joseph. Not discouraged by the opposition and ill-success his efforts at reform had met with in St. Gabriel's province, Peter drew up the constitutions of the new province with even greater severity. The reform spread rapidly into other provinces of Spain and Portugal.

In 1562 the province of St. Joseph was put under the jurisdiction of the general of the Observants, and two new custodies were formed: St. John Baptist's in Valencia, and St. Simon's in Galicia. Besides the above-named associates of Peter may be mentioned St. Francis Borgia,John of Avila, and Ven. Louis of Granada. In St. Teresa, Peter perceived a soul chosen of God for a great work, and her success in the reform of Carmel was in great measure due to his counsel, encouragement, and defense. It was a letter from St. Peter (14 April, 1562) that encouraged her to found her first monastery at Avila, 24 Aug. of that year. St. Teresa's autobiography is the source of much of our information regarding Peter's life, work, and gifts of miracles and prophecy.

Perhaps the most remarkable of Peter's graces were his gift of contemplation and the virtue of penance. Hardly less remarkable was his love of God, which was at times so ardent as to cause him, as it did St. Philip Neri, sensible pain, and frequently rapt him into ecstasy. The poverty he practiced and enforced was as cheerful as it was real, and often let the want of even the necessaries of life be felt. In confirmation of his virtues and mission of reformation God worked numerous miracles through his intercession and by his very presence. He was beatified by Gregory XV in 1622, and canonized by Clement IX in 1669. Besides the Constitutions of the Stricter Observants and many letters on spiritual subjects, especially to St. Teresa, he composed a short treatise on prayer, which has been translated into all the languages of Europe. His feast is October 22nd for the Franciscans (often seen as October 19th for the general calendar). 

by St. Peter of Alcantara

Chapter I.

Of the Fruit to be Derived from Prayer and Meditation

SINCE this short treatise speaks of prayer and meditation, it will be well to state in a few words what is the fruit which may be derived from this holy exercise, so that men may give themselves to it with more willing heart.  It is a well known fact that one of the greatest hindrances we have to attaining our final happiness and blessedness, is the evil inclination of our hearts, the difficulty and dullness of spirit we have in respect to good rules; for, if this was not in the way, it would be the easiest thing possible to run in the path of virtues, and attain to the end for which we were created.  Concerning which the Apostle says, "I delight in the Law of God, according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin." (Rom. 7:22-23)  This, then, is the universal cause of all our evil.  One of the most efficacious means for overcoming this dullness and difficulty, and for facilitating this matter, is devotion; for as St. Thomas says, "Devotion is nothing else than a certain readiness and aptitude for doing good."  For this takes away from our mind all that difficulty and dullness, and makes us quick and ready for all good.  It is a spiritual refection, a refreshment, like the dew of Heaven, a breath and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural affection.  It so orders, strengthens, and transforms a man's heart, that it imparts a new taste and inspiration for spiritual things, a new distaste and abhorrence for sensible things.  The experience of every day shows us this.  For when a spiritually minded person rises from deep devout prayer, then straight away all his good resolutions are renewed, together with fervor and determination to do good; the desire then to please, and to love, a Lord so good and kind as He has then shown Himself to be, a willingness to endure fresh troubles, and chastenings, even to shedding blood for His sake, then, finally, all the freshness of soul is renewed and blooms again.

If you ask me, by what means so powerful and noble an affection of devotion is attained, the same holy teacher answers that it is by meditation and contemplation of diving things;  for from deeply meditating and pondering over these things there springs up this disposition, and affection in the will, which is called devotion;  and this stirs and moves us to all good.  It is on this account that this holy and religious exercise is so extolled and commended by all the Saints, as being The Means of acquiring devotion, which, though it is but one virtue only, yet it disposes and moves one to all the other virtues, and exists as a general stimulus to them all.

If you would see how true this is, hear how plainly St. Bonaventure declares it in these words:
"If you would suffer patiently the adversities and miseries of this life, be a man of prayer.  If you would gain power and strength to overcome the temptations of the enemy, be a man of prayer.  If you would mortify your will with all its affections and lusts, be a man of prayer.  If you would understand the cunning devices of Satan, and defend yourself against his deceits, be a man of payer.  If you would live joyfully, and with sweetness walk in the path of penitence and sorrow, be a man of prayer.  If you would drive out the troublesome gnats of vain thoughts and cares from your soul, be a man of prayer.  If you would sustain your soul with the richness of devotion, and kept it ever full of good thoughts and desires, be a man of prayer.  If you would strengthen and confirm your heart in the pilgrimage with God, be a man of prayer.  Lastly, if you would root out from your soul every vice and in their place plant the virtues, be a man of prayer, for in this is obtained the unction and grace of the Holy Spirit who teaches all things.”
"And besides all this, if you would climb to the height of contemplation, and delight in the sweet embraces of the Bridegroom, exercise yourself in prayer, for this is the way by which the soul mounts up to contemplation and to the taste of heavenly things.
"You see, then, of how great virtue and power is prayer, and for proof of all that has been said (to say nothing of Holy Scripture) let this now be sufficient assurance that we have seen and heard, and see, day by day, many simple persons who have attained to all these things above mentioned and to others greater, through the exercise of prayer."
Thus far the words of St. Bonaventure. Then, what richer treasure? What field can be found more fertile, yielding more abundantly than this?  Hear also what another most religious and holy doctor, speaking of this same virtue, says:
"In prayer the soul is cleansed from sin, pastured with charity, confirmed in faith, strengthened in hope, gladdened in spirit.  By prayer the inward man is directed aright, the heart is purified, the truth discovered, temptation overcome, sadness avoided, the perceptions renewed, languishing virtue restored, lukewarmness dismissed, the rust of vices done away;  and in it there do not cease to come forth living sparkles of heavenly desires, with which the flame of divine love burns.  Great are the excellencies of prayer, great are its privileges!  Before it Heaven is opened, secrete things are made manifest, and to it the ears of God are ever attentive." (St. Lawrence Justinian, In Signo Vitae)
This now is sufficient to show in some way what is the fruit of this holy exercise.

Chapter II.

Of the Subject Matter of Meditation

HAVING seen what fruit may come of Prayer and Mediation, let us now see what are the things on which we should meditate.   To which the answer is, that inasmuch as this holy exercise is ordained to create in our hearts the love and fear of God, and to lead us to keep His Commandments, the most fitting subject for this exercise will be that which should most surely lead to the end proposed.  And although it be true that all created things, whether earthly or heavenly, may move us to this, yet, generally speaking, the Mysteries of our Faith which are contained in the Creed, are the most efficacious, and profitable.  For here are treated the subjects of the Divine blessings, the Last Judgment, the pains of Hell, and the glory of Paradise, where there are the most powerful stimulants to move our hearts to the love and fear of God;  and in it are treated also the Life and Passion of Our Savior Christ, in which consists all our good.  These two subjects especially are treated of in the Creed, and are those on which we for the most part make our Meditations.  And therefore, with much reason it is said, that the Creed is the most fitting subject for this holy exercise, although at the same time, there may be with every one some subject which might more especially move his heart to the love and fear of God.

Agreeably, then, with this, in order to help on the young who are now entering upon this path, to whom we should give food which has been, as it were, already digested, I will now briefly set forth two kinds of Meditation for all the days of the week.  Taken, for the most part, from the Mysteries of our Faith, some are for the evening, and some for the morning;  so that, as we give our bodies their two meals each day, so should we give our souls, whose food is Meditation and the consideration of things Divine.  Of these Mediations, some are upon the Mysteries of Sacred Passion and Resurrection of Christ, and some upon the other Mysteries of which I have spoken.  Those who have not time to make such retirement twice in the day, will, at least, be able to mediate one week upon the former mysteries, and another week upon the latter.  Or, they may fine themselves entirely to those on the Passion and Life of Jesus Christ, which are the principal ones;  although it would not be well, in the beginning of the soul's conversion, to omit the others, seeing that they are especially suitable at such time when the fear of God and detestation of our sins are to be chiefly desired.

On this day, you shall enter upon the memory of your sins, and upon the knowledge of yourself, to see how many evil things you have done, and to see that you have nothing that is good save from God.  For this consideration is the means of acquiring humility, the mother of all the virtues.

Monday Morning Meditation

For this purpose you must first think of the multitude of the sins of your past life, especially of those committed in the days when you knew not God.  For if you consider them well, you will find that they are more in number than the hairs of your head, and that you lived in that day like the Gentile who knows not God.  Consider then, briefly, the Ten Commandments, and the Seven Deadly sins, and you will see that there are none into which you have not often fallen, in deed or word or thought.  Let your mind, then, rest upon the Divine Blessings, and upon your past time, and consider how you have made use of them.  For you have to give an account of all these before God.  Tell me, then, how have you used the days of your childhood, your youth, your manhood, indeed all the days of your past life?

In what way did you use your bodily senses, and the powers of your soul, which God gave to you for the purpose of knowing and serving Him? In what did you use your eyes, except in things of vanity?
In what did you use your ears, except to hear things of falsehood;  in what your tongue, except in all manner of rash oaths and murmurings? and your taste and all your senses, except in sensual pleasures and flattery?
How have you profited by the Holy Sacraments, which God ordained for your assistance?
What thanksgivings have you made for all His benefits?
How have you responded to His inspirations?
How have you used your health and strength, your natural talents, your earthly goods, your opportunities and occasions for living well?
What care have you taken of your neighbor whom God commended to you, and what works of mercy towards him can you show?
Then what will you answer on that day of reckoning when God shall say unto you:  "Give an account of your stewardship."  O withered tree, destined for eternal torments!  What will you answer on that day, when there shall be required from you the account of your whole life, and of every point and moment in it? Think, next, of the sins which you have committed, and do each day commit, even after your eyes have been opened to the knowledge of God, and you will find that the old Adam still lives in you, with many of the old roots and habits.  See how you have stood aloof from God, how unthankful you have been for His benefits, how rebellious against his inspirations, how slothful in things concerning His service, which you never performed with that readiness and diligence and purity of intention which you do owe Him; nay, think of how you have discharged them even for the sake of human respects and interests!

Consider, also, moreover, how hard you are towards your neighbor, and how gentle with yourself; how you love your own will, your self, your flesh, your honor, and your own interests!

See how you are always proud, ambitious, quick to anger, vainglorious, envious, malicious, prone to amusement, inconstant, full of levity, sensual, given to recreations, laughter and idle talk.  See, too, how inconstant you are in good purposes, how inconsiderate in your words, and imprudent in your deeds, and how cowardly and half-hearted in any matter of importance.

And further, after you have taken note of the multitude of your sins, consider then their gravity, so that you may see how on all sides your misery has grown upon you.  For this you should, in the first place, think of these three circumstances in your past life, namely,
Against Whom have you sinned?
For what end did you sin?
And in what way?
If you think, against Whom you did sin, you will find that it was against God, whose goodness and majesty are infinite, whose blessings and mercies to man are more in number than the sands of the sea-shore.  Or if you think, for what end you did sin, it was for some point of honor, some foul lust, or some trivial interest, or very often for something of no interest whatsoever, for no other reason than habit, and disregard for God.  Or if you think, in what way you did sin, it was with such ease and audacity as to be without scruple or fear; nay, at time with such ease and content as if you were sinning against a god made of wood who neither knew nor saw anything that was done on earth.  Is this the honor which is due to so great a Majesty?  Is this the thanks you gave for so great blessings?  Is this the return you make for that most Precious Blood shed upon the Cross, for those scourgings and buffetings endured on your behalf?  O miserable you, for what you have lost, and more for what you have gained for yourself, and much more still, if with all this, you do not sense your impending perdition!

Monday Evening Meditation

After all this it is most profitable to let your thoughts rest a while on the consideration of your nothingness;  that is, how you have by yourself nothing, but sin, or in other words, nothingness;  how all else is from God alone.  For it is clear that as all natural gifts, so those too, of grace, which are greater, are His only.  From him is the grace of predestination, which is the source of all other graces;  from Him the grace of our vocation, and all the grace accompanying it;  from Him the grace of perseverance, and that of life eternal.

What have you, then, from which to glory, save your nothingness and sin?
Rest, then, awhile in the consideration of that nothingness, and take note that this, and all else, comes from God; so that you may see clearly and manifestly what you are, and what He is;  how poor you are, and how abundant in riches he is; and, consequently, how little you can trust in  and esteem yourself, and how greatly you can trust in Him, love Him, glory in Him!

Then, having considered all these things, think of yourself with thoughts most lowly.  Ponder that you are nothing but "a reed shaken in the wind." of no weights, or virtue, or firmness, or steadfastness or anything else.  Ponder that you are another Lazarus, dead for four days, a carcass foul-smelling and abominable, so much that they who pass by cover their noses, and shut their eyes.  Judge on your own that this is what you are before God and His angels, and hold yourself to be unworthy to lift your eyes up to Heaven, or that this earth should bear you, or that creatures should serve you; unworthy of the bread which you eat and of the air which you breathe.  With that sinner of the street, cast yourself down at the Savior's feet, with your face covered in confusion and shame like the woman taken in adultery; and with much sorrow and compunction of heart, beg of Him pardon for your sins, and that, out of His infinite pity and mercy, He may vouchsafe to turn to you, and receive you into His house.


Chapter I.

What is Devotion?

THE greatest trouble those persons suffer from who give themselves to Prayer is the failing in Devotion which they so often experience in it.  When there is no such failing, there is nothing sweeter, or more easy that to pray.  For this reason, now that we have treated upon the subject-matter of Prayer, and upon the manner of  praying, it will be well to consider the things which help Devotion, and also those which hinder it, and the temptations which most often assail devout people in it;  and certain other points that are necessary to observe in this exercise.  But first it will greatly help the matter to set forth what Devotion is, that we may know to begin with, what is the precious thing for which we are contending.

Devotion, says St. Thomas Aquinas, is a power which makes one prompt and ready for any virtue, and stirs and helps one to do well. (Summa II, II, Q. 82, Art. 1.)  This definition declares manifestly the great necessity and usefulness of this power, for it contains in itself more than some would think.  We have on this account to consider that the chief hindrance to living a good life is the corruption of human nature which came to us through sin, and from which comes the great inclination we have towards evil, and the difficulty and unwillingness we have in respect to what is good.  These two things make the path of virtue most difficult to us, while in itself it is the thing most sweet, most beautiful, most to be desired, most honorable in the world.  It is against this difficulty and unwillingness the Divine Wisdom has provided this most complete remedy in the power and succor of Devotion.  For as the north wind disperses the clouds, and leaves the sky clear and serene, so true Devotion drives away from our mind all that unwillingness and difficulty, and leaves it then free and disposed for all that is good.  This virtue so become as power within us as being at one a very special gift of the Holy Spirit, a heavenly dew, a succor and visitation of God attained through Prayer.  Its very nature is to contend against the difficulty of which we have spoken, and to overcome this luke-warmness, to give us readiness and fill the soul with good desires, to enlighten the understanding, to strengthen the Will, to kindle in us the Love of God, to extinguish the flame of evil desires, to teach hatred of worldly things, and abhorrence of sin, and to give us new fervor, new spirit, new power, and incentive to well doing.

For as Samson, wile possessed of his hair, had greater strength than any man in the world, and when this was taken away from him, became as weak as other men; so is the Christian soul strong when he has this Devotion, and weak when he has it not.

And this is what St. Thomas desired to show in his definition, and, without doubt, this is the greatest praise one could give to this virtue, that, being of itself only one virtue, it is a stimulus and incentive to all others.  Let not him then that would travel by the path of virtues, go without these spurs;  for without them he will never be able to arouse the evil beast of his nature form is sluggishness.

From what has been said it will be clearly seen, then, what is true and real Devotion.  For Devotion is not a certain tenderness of heart, or sense of consolation which those who pray feel sometimes, unless there be also a promptitude and disposition for good works, for, when at times God would prove who are His own, it often happens that the one is found and not the other.  The truth is that form this Devotion and readiness there often arises the consolation spoken of:  and, on the other hand, that very consolation and spiritual delight will increase the Devotion itself, which is the readiness and incentive to well-doing.  And, therefore, God's servants may, with good reason, desire and ask for these joys and consolations, not for the pleasure they give, but because they are the means of increasing the Devotion which fits them for well-doing, as the Prophet showed when he said, "I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou has set my heart at liberty," (Ps. 119:32) that is, with the joy of Thy consolation which was the cause of my readiness.

And now let us proceed to treat of those means by which this Devotion is to be attained, and, since with this virtue are united all others leading to the special knowledge of God, we will consider the means of attaining to the perfection of Prayer and Contemplation, to the consolations of the Holy Spirit and the love and wisdom of God, and to that union of our souls with God, which is the goal of all spiritual life.

And this, lastly, is to consider the mans by which we may attain to the possession of God Himself in this life, which is that Treasure of the Gospel, the "Pearl of great price" for the possession of which the husbandman joyfully despoiled himself of all that he had.

Hence it is we see that the highest aim of our theology is, that from it we may learn the way to the Supreme Good, and may make this life to become a ladder by which we may advance step by step to the eternal happiness awaiting us.

Taken from the English Translation, A Golden Treatise on Mental Prayer,  edited by G. S. Hollings, S.S.J.E., (reedited by the Franciscan Archive), publ. by A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1904: a non-copyrighted edition.

Today is the Feast of Bl. Josephine Leroux, Virgin and Martyr, Poor Clare Nun 1770-1794

(As there is no picture of Bl. Josephine, I use an old photo of a Poor Clare nun above as I didn't want to have a post with no pictures!)

Blessed Josephine Leroux entered the convent of the Poor Clares at Valenciennes when she was 22 years old. In 1770 she made her vows. Then the French Revolution broke out, and the religious were rudely driven from their convents.

Josephine at first returned to her family. But when Valenciennes was captured by the Austrians, Josephine could not resist the impulse to return to the enclosure. However, the convent of the Poor Clares at Valenciennes had not yet been rebuilt, and she took refuge in the convent of the Ursulines, where her own sister lived.

But the victorious revolutionary army retook the city, and Josephine was placed under arrest as having been disloyal to her country. Without being in any way perturbed, she confronted the band of soldiers who came to arrest her and she said, "It was hardly necessary to make so much ado for the purpose of taking a weak woman captive!" Then, having served her captors with refreshments, she followed them to prison.

Because she had resumed the life of a religious contrary to the laws, Josephine was condemned to death. With holy serenity and perfect resignation to God's holy will she accepted the death sentence and prepared for it by receiving the Bread of Heaven for her journey to the Divine Bridegroom. With a cheerful countenance she went out to the place of execution, singing sacred hymns along the way. She declared herself truly fortunate at being deemed worthy to give her life for the Catholic Faith.

"Could anyone fear to leave this place of exile," she said, "when he reflects on the beauty of Paradise?"

At the scaffold she gratefully kissed the hand of the executioner, and in a clear voice forgave everybody. Then she placed her head on the block. Her sister, Mary Scholastic, and four other companions died a martyr's death with her. This occurred on October 23, 1794. Pope Benedict XV enrolled her among the blessed.

God our Father, You give us joy each year in honoring the memory of blessed Josephine. May her prayers be a source of help for us, and may her example and chastity be our inspiration.

from: The Franciscan Book Of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, OFM

Today is the Feast of Two Franciscan Blesseds: Bl. James of Strepar and Bl. Contardo Ferrini

Oct 20 - Blessed James of Strepar

James was born in the 14th century of a noble Polish family of Strepar and was educated in a Christian manner by his pious parents. To escape the dangers of the world, he entered the poor order of St. Francis when he was a young man. Very soon he became distinguished among his brethren for eminent virtue, rare attainments, and zeal for the salvation of souls.

The neighboring realm of Russia presented at that time a wide field for the exercise of his zeal. Partly it was still inhabited by heathens; and where the Catholic Church had flourished for centuries, Greek schismatics had long been endeavoring to win the people from the Mother Church at Rome. With the consent of his superiors James went to Russia to preach the Gospel and to save the faithful from going astray. About 1360, he had a share in the organization of a special group of Franciscan missionaries called Societas Peregrinantium or Travelers for Christ, who did excellent work in Russia. Wallachia, and Podolia, and in 1401 extended their activities also to the Tatars near the Caspian Sea and other parts of Asia.

Father James' missionary efforts were so successful, and his apostolic virtues were so pronounced, that on the death of the archbishop of Halicz, the pope named him his successor at the request of the king of Poland in 1392. Only because he was compelled, did James accept the dignity. But even as a bishop he wore the Franciscan habit and as far as possible continued his missionary labors.

To preserve the Catholics of the old and the newly acquired districts in Christian truth, he built many new churches and convents. His large income was used only for this purpose and for the support of the poor.

To secure God's blessing on the territory entrusted to his spiritual care, he considered nothing more helpful than veneration of the Mother of God. Next to God he placed his confidence in her. Instead of the family coat-of-arms, he had the image of Mary engraved on his seal; everything he prescribed for his diocese was to have the seal of Mary. He had her image also on his pastoral ring. Every evening devotions were held in her honor in the cathedral or wherever he chanced to be; and he always attended the services. He urged the people to attend these devotions, as well as special devotions of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, for which he issued special regulations and granted indulgences.

James was also mindful of the temporal welfare of his flock. In order to check the frequent inroads of the Tatars, who were laying the country waste, he proposed such excellent measures to the Polish parliament that he was quite generally called the protector of the kingdom.

After a laborious and blessed episcopate of 19 years, God called him to receive his heavenly reward in the year 1410. Clothed in the habit of the order and wearing the marks of his episcopal dignity, he was entombed in the Franciscan church at Lwow, to which the archbishopric had been transferred from Halicz. When his grave was opened after 200 years his body and clothing were found entirely incorrupt. Later the remains were removed to the cathedral.

The continued veneration paid to him was formally approved by Pope Pius VI.


1. The months of May and October are especially set aside by the Church for the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We should not, however, limit our veneration to these two months. Like Blessed James, we should venerate her throughout the year and all our life. She was the mother of the primitive Christian Church; the apostles and the first Christians at Jerusalem were gathered about her when the Holy Spirit descended. She was the bond which encircled the first Christian community with motherly love, when "the multitude of believers had but one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32). Blessed James expected veneration of Mary to bring harmony to his diocese as well as the fruits of the Holy Spirit. May those fruits also enter our hearts, our homes, our congregations, and the whole Catholic Church. -- Is Mary truly honored in your home?

2. Consider how God Himself honored Mary. He sent one of the most eminent heavenly spirits, the archangel Gabriel, to her who at God's behest said to her: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women... Thy Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the Holy One who shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:28-35).The Holy Trinity thus entered into a most intimate union with her, since God the Father was with her, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the Son of God was to be born of her. Could he who would not honor her still be called a child of God? Filled with the Holy Spirit, she herself proclaims: "From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed" (Luke 1:48). Great favors will surely be granted to him who venerates her whom the Blessed Trinity has honored. O Mary, Daughter of the heavenly Father, Mother of the Divine Son, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us!

3. Consider that Blessed James rightly expected the veneration of Mary to bring special blessings particularly to his sacred ministry. With Mary's blessing the apostles set out to preach the Gospel, and she continually raised her hands to heaven both for those who preached the Faith and for those who accepted the Faith from them. Catholic life flourishes the more abundantly the more she is honored. Her maternal protection and powerful intercession will obtain blessings for the shepherd so that he may guide his sheep in a truly apostolic spirit, and for the flock so that it may lead a Christian life and arrive at the blessed goal.


O God, who didst wonderfully renew the apostolic spirit in Thy blessed bishop and confessor James, we beseech Thee, grant us his intercession that we may ever adhere to Thee in faith and in true service. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press


Oct 20 - Blessed Contardo Ferrini 1859-1902

The city of Milan was abounded in men of learning and virtue. Our present age has revealed a new star there, which is destined to show an amazed modern generation that profound learning and humble faith can well go hand in hand.
Contardo Ferrini was born of a distinguished family on April 4, 1859. When he was still a student in high school and college he encouraged his companions to lead good lives and exercised a kind of lay apostolate among them. After winning his doctorate in law, he obtained a government scholarship to study abroad. He went to Berlin, where he studied Roman-Byzantine law, a field in which he achieved international fame. In the capital of the German empire prejudices against Catholics did not keep Professor Ferrini from publicly professing his faith. On returning to Italy, he taught in various higher institutions of learning and eventually at the University of Paris.

It must be stressed here that Ferrini's life was practically an unbroken elevation of his soul to God. His keen intellectual ways penetrated to the Last Principle of all things. "Our life," he said, "must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity."

Every day he approached the Holy Table. He made a short meditation daily, and also read from Thomas a Kempis. His favorite books were those of the Bible. The better to savor the spirit of their contents, he read them in the original languages, of which he had a perfect command. Like another Joseph of Egypt, he preserved his purity unsullied amid the dangers of big city life. He practiced many and varied mortifications to arm himself against harm.

In 1886 he joined the Third Order of St. Francis, and for the rest of his life he faithfully observed its rule. He also enrolled himself in the St, Vincent de Paul Society. In his speeches and writings as well as in his conduct, he made it a point to show that faith and science are not only opposed to each other, but that faith is rather a shield to protect us from error and guide us to true heights.

In 1900 Contardo Ferrini was afflicted with a heart lesion in consequence of excessive labor. In the autumn of 1902, feeling the need of rest, he repaired to his country house at Suna. There, however, he was stricken with typhus. Due to his weakened condition, he was unable to resist the malignant fever, and died on October 17, 1902, at the age of 43.

The high esteem in which the deceased was held, now became evident. Letters of condolence from the professors of the university praised him as a saint. The people of Suna promptly expressed a desire to see him numbered among the saints. The demand for his beatification grew more insistent with time, and there was universal rejoicing when in 1909 Pope St. Pius X appointed Cardinal Ferrari to begin the process. Pope Pius XI conferred on him the title Venerable in 1931; and Pope Pius XII beatified him in 1947.

ON THE HOLY SCRIPTURES 1. Holy Writ is not the only source of faith. It is incomplete for one thing, for St. John says: "There are also many other things which Jesus did" (John 21:25). Then, too, the prophecies about the kingdom of heaven which Christ gave His apostles before His ascension, are not recorded. And from the Epistles of St. Paul (1 Cor 5:9 & Col 4:16) we learn that part of the Scriptures have even been lost. Although Contardo Ferrini entertained great love for the Scriptures, he did not regard them as the only authority in matters of faith, but paid equal respect to the teachings of Holy Church. -- Scripture and the appointment to teach go hand in hand.

2. Holy Writ most not be our only source of faith. Christ did not say, "Distribute Bibles!" But He did say, "Teach all nations!" (Matt 28:19). Holy Writ itself ought to assure us that it is the only source of our faith if that were the case; but nowhere can we find a statement to that effect. Neither is the meaning of Holy Writ plain to all who read it. Nowhere do we find it stated just what belongs to holy Writ; our separated brethren have learned that from the teachers of the Catholic Church. -- Let nothing and nobody keep you from heeding the teachings of the Catholic Church.

3. At no time was Holy Scripture used as the only source of faith. Certainly not in the beginning of Christianity; for then the Gospels and Epistles had not yet been written and distributed. Nor at any later time; for even Protestantism has not held the Bible to be the only rule, since the observance of Sunday, the baptism of infants, and may other practices are not mentioned in the Bible. Should non-Catholics reproach you for neglecting the Bible, let your answer be: Holy Scriptures tells us nowhere that we should read the word of God, but it does tell us to hear the word of God. From Sunday to Sunday, the Catholic Church gives us the explanation of the Scriptures. Intelligent and leading Protestants themselves complain of the mischief done by the so-called free interpretation of the Bible. As far as reading the Bible is concerned, good Catholic read and pray it often in the prayers of the liturgy, especially the missal and the divine office. And the Church has granted an indulgence to the faithful who spend at least a quarter of an hour in reading Holy Scripture with the great reverence due to the word of God and after the manner of spiritual reading.


May the faithful, O Lord, be strengthened by Thy graces, that having received them, they may yearn for still more and through this yearning receive them anew in greater measure. Through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

from: The Franciscan Book of Saints, ed. by Marion Habig, ofm., © 1959 Franciscan Herald Press

St. Clare Quote

St. Padre Pio's Quotes

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Excerpt from St. Padre Pio's Letters

Remember that I am the enemy of useless desires, no less than I am of dangerous and bad desires. Because even though one's desires are good, nevertheless the desire is always defective in our regard, especially when it is combined with excessive haste. Because God does not expect this sort of good, but He wants us to practice another. 
- St. Padre Pio (Letters III,. p. 583)

A Prayer to Jesus Abandoned

"O Divine Jesus, lonely tonight in so many Tabernacles, without visitor or worshipper, I offer Thee my poor heart. May its every throb be an act of love for Thee. Thou art always watching beneath the Sacramental Veils; in Thy Love Thou dost never sleep and Thou art never weary of Thy vigil for sinners."
(above from the "The Recycled Catholic" Facebook page.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

St Francis’ Prayer before the Crucifix at San Damiano

 Most High, glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith, 
sure hope,
and perfect charity.
Fill me with understanding and knowledge, Lord,
that I may carry out
Your holy and true command.

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate's Mass Homily for Feast of St. Francis

Oct 4th - Homily: St. Francis' Letter to the Faithful

Thursday, October 3, 2013

St. Francis Quotes

For St. Francis' feast today: "Francis of Assisi" - full-length movie from 1961

Mother Dolores Hart (Benedictine nun of Regina Laudis Monastery, aka the "Nun who kissed Elvis!".  Bradford Dillman plays St. Francis.  Not super historically accurate but good for a Hollywood movie!  I have this on DVD and love it!

Today is the Feast of Our Holy Father, St. Francis!

From the Franciscans Friars TORwebsite (

St. Francis of Assisi, Charismatic Penitent

Saint Francis was born in 1182 in Assisi, Italy, the son of a prosperous merchant. Conditions in Italy were not dissimilar to the conditions of our day.
The powerless minores no longer tolerated the domination of the majores; prolonged drought caused widespread famine; and barbarous public torture was but a different form of the violence and terrorism of today.
Francis of Assisi was not born a saint. The son of a wealthy merchant, he had time and money to host lavish banquets for young nobles who proclaimed him "King of Feasts." Parties and selling cloth left Francis little time for God.
A handsome, charming and educated young man, he spent his early life leading young nobles in parties. He dreamed of knighthood and longed for the adventurous life of chivalry. In pursuit of that dream, he joined in the war between Assisi and Perugia at the age of 20.
In a war between Assisi and Perugia, Francis fought with youthful enthusiasm. He was wounded and taken prisoner. Spending thenext year in a dungeon, he contracted malaria. Ransomed by his father, a more reflective Francis returned to Assisi. Sickness overtook him and in that languishing experience he heard the first stirrings of a vocation to peace and justice.
The military victories of Count Walter of Brienne revived Francis' desire for knighthood. Under Brienne's command, he hoped to win his favor and become a knight. On his way to join Brienne, Francis stopped in Spoleto and heard the shocking news of his death. Overcome by depression, his malaria returned.
One night a mysterious voice asked him, "Who do you think can best reward you, the Master or the servant?" FrancisAnswered, "The Master." The voice continued, "Why do you leave the Master for the servant?" Francis realized the servant was Count Walter. He left Spoleto convinced God had spoken to him.
During the next two years Francis sensed an inner force that was preparing him for another change. The sight of lepers caused revulsion in the sensitive soul of Francis. One day while riding his horse, he cam upon a leper. His first impulse was to throw him a coin and spur his horse on. Instead Francis dismounted and embraced the leper. On his death bed he recalled the encounter as the crowning moment of his conversion: "What seemed bitter to me was changed into sweetness of soul and body."
Later, in a dramatic moment of prayer in the abandoned Church of San Damiano, he heard a voice coming from the crucifix which challenged him to rebuild the church. At first he thought it meant that he should rebuild San Damiano. Gradually, Francis realized that God meant that he should "rebuild" the Church at large. From that moment he learned that living a Christian life would place him in opposition to the values of his society and set him apart from family and friends and many of his own age.
He became a charismatic penitent. The Brothers and Sisters of Penance see the pattern of gradual conversion that marked Francis' spiritual journey as the defining characteristic or charism of the Third Order Regular.
At first Francis sought to live a life of solitude and prayer. Within a few years he came to see God was calling him to give new momentum to a movement already present among the Christian faithful, a life of conversion - the challenge to LIVE the Gospels in his daily life. Francis found that other men of Assisi were attracted to the same vision - to follow Christ and His Apostles. Soon there grew a small commune which settled on the outskirts of a town near the abandoned Church of Our Lady of the Angels. Here a new Order in the Church was born. Today it is
Before Francis died in 1226 at the age of 44, he founded three Orders. His gift to humankind was his love of God as he experienced Him in all of His creation. His imprint on history are the men and women who identify with his vision in the Franciscan way of life. That legacy lives on in the followers of Francis who today seek to inspire in themselves and others the ideals of peace and justice of the gospels.

Intimacy with God was the foremost priority for Francis, being in love with the One who loved him first.

St. Francis is one of the most revered saints of all time, and volumes upon volumes have been written about him. Yet, though he is known for his intense spirituality, it is still difficult to write about his explicit spiritual practices. He left no specific expositions of his spiritual life, and provided no explicit plans for spiritual exercises or methods of prayer. However, the person of St. Francis is known and described in his biographies, and his life, whole and complete, is in itself a spiritual practice to God. From his caring of the poor to his adoration of nature to his fervent times of prayer, all of his actions were an act of worship. His life, a combination of the contemplative and the active, is a Christian model of holistic spiritual living even for today.

Intimacy through prayer

To Francis, being with Christ was a love affair. When referring to his relationship with God, he called himself "a spouse of the Holy Spirit." To cultivate his intimacy with the Divine, he often retreated to remote places to pray and contemplate alone with God. He loved being alone with His Father so much that, at times, he was torn between devoting himself completely to the contemplative instead of the active life.
Prayer was his chief comfort. It was Francis' starting place, his source of strength in faith. God was his refuge on whom he could cast all of his cares and burdens. He was completely dependent on the Lord, and he understood that progress in God's service was futile without prayer. In fact, he placed prayer at the highest pinnacle of all of the spiritual exercises and used every means to have his friars concentrate on it. He eagerly sought to pray to God without ceasing, to keep his soul always in the presence of God. Bonaventure witnesses:
Prayer was his sure refuge in everything he did; he never relied on his own efforts, but put his trust in God's loving providence and cast the burden of his cares on him in insistent prayer. He was convinced that the grace of prayer was something a religious should long for above all else. No one, he declared, could make progress in God's service without it.
And, Francis' prayers were not detached or antiseptic requests, but instead his prayers were often passionate and cries from the soul. Bonaventure writes:
Francis would make the groves re-echo with his sighs and bedew the ground with his tears, as he beat his breast and conversed intimately with his Lord in hidden secrecy. Here he defended himself before his Judge; here he spoke with his Lover."
Intimacy with God was the foremost priority for Francis, being in love with the One who loved him first.
The busy ministers of the modern age could learn much through Francis' example. His priorities were in line with the will of God. He placed his relationship with the Savior as his foremost concern, above ministry strategies and scholastic exercises. As a man whom God used to bring widespread renewal to the Christian faith, he desired most of all to be at the feet of his Father, seeking intimacy, guidance and nourishment through solitary prayer.

Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Often, while praying, St. Francis would be rapt in ecstasy. Whenever he felt the Spirit approaching, he would always welcome Him, enjoying the "inspiration" for as long as God permitted.
His ecstasy would come in different forms, often experiencing what was beyond human reason. One time, he fell into a trance and rode through the town of Borgo San Sepulcro like a corpse, while the townspeople touched and pulled him, even cutting off little pieces of his tunic as souvenirs. After leaving the town, Francis asked when they would be arriving at the city they had just ridden through! Ecstasies of this sort would also occur in community, where he and his companions "were rapt out of themselves, and lay on the ground like dead men, completely unconscious."
Near the end of his life, Francis went up Mount La Verna to pray and to reflect on the Passion of Christ, and he prayed and meditated for three weeks straight. He desired to share in Christ's sufferings, and the result of his prayers was the appearance of the stigmata on his body, the marks which resembled the wounds caused by the nails and spear on the Crucified Christ.
Francis' biographers have written about many more mystical vignettes that have occurred throughout the life of this saint. These experiences mark Francis intimacy with God, and his sensitivity to the workings of the Holy Spirit. They did not supersede his orthodox beliefs, but merely enhanced his intimate relationship with the Spirit. A life of orthodoxy need not exclude the visible outworking of the Holy Spirit. Francis' faith was much more than a heady theology, but a spiritual life which was also lived out and supernaturally experienced.

Worshipping through nature

St. Francis would often experience mystical experiences through nature as well. In nature, he would see the beauty of His creator. Armstrong writes of Francis:
A Christian nature mystic is therefore one whose mystical experience, whatever form it may take, is based on Christian beliefs and involves an appreciation of Creation as God's handiwork."
The whole of nature was a sacrament, where Francis would find himself in an ecstasy of prayer with eyes raised to heaven while holding a waterfowl in his hands. The world and all of its beauty was considered a gift from God.
Sometimes however, his reverence for nature would reach extremes, treating God's creation with radical reverence. Once, he was sitting close to a fire, and when his undergarments were caught aflame, he refused to put out the fire, saying "Dearest brother, do not hurt Brother fire!" Other times, his love for water made him wash his hands where the water would not be trodden underfoot, and his love for rocks made him walk on them reverently and fearfully, out of love for Christ who is called the Rock.
In our world of consumption, where the resources of nature are blighted and abused, Francis stands out as an anomaly. Though his behaviors border on the extreme, his love for creation and for the Creator is evident through his actions. For Francis, creation was not a god in itself, but an avenue in worshipping the True God. Armstrong writes, "For him nature spoke of God." And out of love for the Father, he treated God's creation with the utmost respect, taking care of the world God has given mankind to tend.

His view of the Bible

St. Francis brought an experiential level to the study of Scripture as well. He believed that the Bible should not merely be learned, but experienced and lived out. He distrusted Biblical scholarship of his times, though he was not completely disavowing the study of the Bible. One time, Francis himself demands the assistance of brothers learned in the Bible and skilled in the use of language, and he quoted extensively from Scripture, thereby exhibiting his own predilections to the study of the Word.
However, he does consider book-learning a real temptation, puffing up the mind. The Word should be studied, but prayer and self-sacrifice are the necessary pre-conditions for scholarly activity, so that each word is received with humility. The scholar of Scripture should not seek the knowledge of the Word as an end of itself. Instead, the Bible should not merely be learned, but its commandments should be obeyed. Francis writes:
A man has been killed by the letter when he wants to know quotations only so that people will think he is very learned and he can make money to give to his relatives and friends. A religious has been killed by the letter when he has no desire to follow the spirit of Sacred Scripture, but wants to know what it says only so that he can explain it to others.
This is an indictment of much of theological education today! The study of the Word must be taken as a spiritual exercise, meant for changing the soul, for cleansing the heart. Theological students today easily forget to pray before studying, ignore the application of their homework into their lives, and turn their studies into drudgery instead of a spiritual act of worship. Though Francis' exegetical processes may be in want, his heart was absolutely correct. The Scripture was not written merely to be learned and spoken about, but it is to be lived out in the lives of Christians. Ultimately, the Scriptures are interpreted through Christian living. Rotzetter writes:
To put it another way, Franciscan exegesis takes the risk of venturing into the realm of practical living before everything has been thought out and made safe. It makes the experiment of living with and from the gospel and experiences its spiritual character in action.

Christian freedom and challenge

His interpretation of the Bible affected his thinking of his spiritual life. He hated legalism and resisted writing specific rules of spiritual living; he wanted his friars to live a life of simplicity and humility. Not wanting to quench the workings of the Spirit by legalistic trappings, he desired instead the spiritual dynamism and freedom which encourages life and imagination. Little is explicitly forbidden to the friars. Francis responded to some of them who wanted more specific rules and regulations:
My brothers, my brothers, God called me to walk in the way of humility and showed me the way of simplicity. I do not want to hear any mention of the rule of St. Augustine, or St. Bernard, or of St. Benedict. The Lord has told me that he wanted to make a new fool of me in the world, and God does not want to lead us by any other knowledge that that. God will use your personal knowledge and your wisdom to confound you.
On the other hand, Francis also observed the Scripture as literally as possible. For example "Do not worry about tomorrow" was taken seriously in a radical manner. The brothers, instead of putting their beans to soak in warm water the day before they were to be eaten as was the custom, they would soak them on the day itself. Similarly they did not accept more alms than they could use on a given day. Thus, Francis lived according to the Word in a radical manner.
The freedom of Christian grace and the challenge of Christian living were intertwined. Instead of falling into the trap of legalism or liberalism, Francis finds an excellent medium, combining both freedom and challenge. He sought the challenge of applying Christian principle to his life, yet found freedom in its expression.

Life of voluntary poverty

His literal approach to the Bible caused Francis to live a life of poverty. In 1208, his father took him before the local bishop to demand that justice be done: he wanted Francis to return his goods. Francis, without prompting or urging, disrobed in front of the bishop, saying that he could now say in complete honesty and without reserve, "Our Father who art in heaven." This was the beginning of his avowal of possessions.
At a mass on February 24, 1208, it was made even more clear. The words of St. Matthew convicted him to the heart: "Take no gold or silver or copper in your wallet, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics or sandals or a staff…" Francis obeyed his calling to absolute poverty, wandering through towns and villages to preach the gospel. He stressed the adoration of God, repentance, generosity, and the forgiveness of wrongs done to each other. He gave his heart out to the poor, befriending them and preaching the gospel. His main overarching passion was to imitate Christ, and his poverty was to be the way of life for Francis. Clissold writes:
Francis passionately believed that the love of material possessions lay at the root of society's ills and of man's estrangement from his maker. Property implied the need for arms with which to defend it, and led to the struggle for power and prestige and to the chronic warfare which was the scourge of his times.
But, in his self-denial, Francis did not have a morbid hatred of self that other ascetics often had. Though he slept on the ground, ate little, kept long vigils throughout the night, lived in shabby clothing, and gave away everything he had, we could not picture him sitting on a pillar or laden with heavy chains. He forbid friars to be too harsh with their penances, and had some penitential instruments confiscated for their caused injury, even death. The self-denial was about following Christ, not hating the self whom God created.
Especially within the affluence of American culture, it is easy to follow the crowd and fall into the sin of materialism and hoard the wealth God has freely given. Francis, however, though his poverty was able to grow rich in spiritual wealth. His poverty was a sign of his radical faith, willing to throw aside material comforts to conform more closely to the life of Christ. In this way, he was completely dependent on God. Though not all Christians are called to Francis' extremes to live in absolute poverty, they should be generous, and willing to use their material wealth cheerfully and without compulsion for the furthering of God's divine will.

Care for the poor and the sick

Not only did he set himself to being poor, he gave devotedly to the poor. Celano writes that Francis would grieve over those who were poorer than himself, from a feeling of sincere compassion. Ever since his early years, he felt a compassion for those less fortunate, and gave alms to the beggars liberally. One time, he found another brother accusing a poor person of being rich, claiming that he was merely posing as a beggar. Francis commanded that brother to strip naked and to kiss that poor man's feet, asking for forgiveness.
He also cared for the sick. Though he was terrified of their disease, he visited the lepers and cared for them. His heart reached out to the poor and the rejected of society, to bring to them the love of Christ. His was the heart of a true minister, full of compassion. In his imitation of Christ, he sought to care for those his Savior cared for. He did not merely revel in the ecstasy of the contemplative; his love ¾ given by God ¾ also drove him to care for the needs of people around him.

Preaching to the nations

Francis was a missionary as well. He preached throughout the countryside, telling the simple folk about the Gospel. He sent some of his brethren to France, Germany, and Spain, where many of them met their martyrdom. Francis himself sought martyrdom, to be linked inextricably with the Passion of Christ by the sacrifice of his own life. He sought to bring the message of Christ to the Muslims, and even made his way to Syria to preach to the Sultan.
And when Francis preached, he did not do it with an acerbic tongue. He preached without the bitter gall of many prophets. Instead, he let his lifestyle and spirituality speak for themselves, and allowed the utter goodness of his heart to pour forth. He lived what he preached, and therefore did not need to rely on oratorical skills or psychological manipulation to share what was in his spirit, the Spirit of God. He imitated Jesus: what he preached, he had already practiced. His life was a witness to his relationship with Christ.
In his life, Francis embraced both the contemplative and the active. Without the contemplative, his action would be empty, shallow. He would have nothing to give but himself. Without the active, he would have a superficial love affair at best. Instead, he was able to give the love of Christ through a knowledge of Scripture and a relationship of intimacy. And, his relationship with God pressed him to make radical decisions, offering his life to God as a spiritual act of worship. Francis' life is a vivid model and a welcome challenge to the spiritual lives of today's Christians. St. Francis of Assisi combined the intimacy of the contemplative and ministry of the active together in spiritual tandem, leading to an honest and devoted imitation of Jesus Christ.