2015 - "Three Little Words" by Terry Ferguson
The Fruit of the Spirit
2016 - "Through the Year with Francis of Assisi"
by Murray Bodo
2017 - Thanks-Living

Saturday, April 30, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 30

When the Brothers Are Not Received

"If the brothers are not received in one place, let them go elsewhere to do penance with the blessing of God."  --The Testament of St. Francis

This is an important reminder that we shouldn't strive to be liked and wanted by everyone.  If we're not wanted, we should not take it personally.  We should move on, trusting God has somewhere else for us to be.  As for the penance, it is something Francis felt called to do.  I do not understand why, since scripture speaks of having a cleared conscience as the result of being restored to God.  Once we confess and repent, penance should not be necessary since Christ paid for our sins.

Friday, April 29, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 29

The Greeting of St. Francis

"The Lord revealed to me that this is to be our greeting:  'The Lord give you peace.'"  --The Testament of St. Francis

In our society the standard greeting seems to be "How are you?" when we come upon an acquaintance.  I must confess that I am surly enough not to comply because it never seemed sincere to me.  My questioner never looked truly interested in how I was--it was just an empty greeting....so I've just stuck with "hello"  as my greeting.  But I wonder....what if I did greet others with "How are you?" and then waited for an answer?  It would mean I could not be so busy that I would be able to take the time to listen if they had more than a "fine" to report.  And if that is their response, should I press them?  "Fine" seems to be the standard, acceptable response even when we are not feeling so fine.  This has given me something to think about the next time I greet someone.....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 28

The Rule of Pilgrims

"St. Francis used to say that the rule of pilgrims is this:  to take shelter under someone else's roof, to thirst after your homeland, and to make your way in peace."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 7:2

A pilgrim is a person on a journey to a holy place.  In a sense we are all pilgrims here on earth.  Our journey is to return to God--He is our homeland.  Earth does not belong to us, we are merely taking shelter here.  Go in peace.



Wednesday, April 27, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 27

Advice for Those Who Travel

"I advise, admonish, and exhort you in the Lord Jesus Christ that when you travel through the world you do not quarrel or argue or judge others; rather, be meek, peaceful and modest, courteous and humble, speaking honorably to everyone."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1223, Chapter III

As it often happens, when we travel in a foreign country people there will either get a good impression or bad impression of America based on our behavior.  The same is true for Christians even in their own community.  People will get a good impression of what it means to be a follower of Christ--or a wrong impression.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 26

Against Calumny and Arguing

"And all the brothers are to guard against speaking falsely of anyone and are to avoid verbal disputes.  Rather, let them seek to keep silent whenever God gives them the grace to do so.  And they are not to argue among themselves, nor with others, but they are to strive to respond with humility, saying, 'We are useless servants' (Lk 17:10)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XI

If we would all heed this advice, there would be peace in the world.  But we know that will not happen.  However, we CAN do our part.


Monday, April 25, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 25

Avoiding Mere Appearances

"Woe to those who are satisfied with the mere appearance of a religious life.  They will grow sluggish in their sloth and will not remain steadfast amid the temptations permitted to prove the just.  For only those who have overcome the test, after the interval of torment from the malice of the wicked, will receive the crown of life."  --Celano, Second Life, 157

"Religion" is merely "belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power," according to the dictionary.  This is only the beginning of saving faith.  The "appearance of a religious life" is available to anyone.  Only those who subject themselves to this "power" through obedience will receive the crown of life because this is how the Lord will know you as one of His when you stand before Him on judgment day.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 24

True Estimation of Oneself

"Blessed are you, servant of God, if you do not consider yourself any better when you are honored and extolled by others than when you are considered low and simple and despised; for what you are before God, that is what you are, and no more."  --St. Francis, Admonition 19

For some of us it takes only one critical opinion or uncaring action to bring us down.  Some of us crave recognition and honor so that we can feel better about ourselves.  Then there are those who put themselves above others because they have achieved honor amongst men, while still others, because they have been repressed their whole lives don't feel worthy of anything good.  Each one of these scenarios is an offense against God, for our worth can only be found in Him.  We must not let the world tell us who we are.  If you trust God, then His opinion of you is the only one you'll desire.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 23

Of the Care of the Sick Brothers

"If one of the brothers falls sick, wherever he may be, the other brothers are not to leave him unless one of the brothers, or more, if necessary, are chosen to serve him as they would wish to be served themselves."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221 Chapter X

Being there for each other is the loving thing to do.  Ministering to shut-ins and those in the hospital is a way we can show our love for them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 22

In What Should We Glory?

"We shouldn't flatter ourselves and boast about doing what any sinner can do.  A sinner can fast, pray, weep, mortify the flesh.  But this a sinner cannot do:  Remain faithful to the Lord.  Therefore this is what we should glory in:  Rendering glory to our Lord, serving him faithfully, and acknowledging as his whatever he gives us."  --Celano, Second Life, 134

And how do we do this?  Love one another....because in doing so, we shall fulfill the law of the Lord.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 21

The Seed and the Good Ground

"Let us be most careful not to be ground by the side of the road or ground among the rocks or thorns, according to what the Lord says in the Gospel:  'The seed is the word of God' (Lk 8:11).  That which 'fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on' (Lk 8:5) are those 'who have heard' (Lk 8:12) the word and do not understand.  Then immediately 'the devil comes and carries away' what was sown in the heart, 'in case they should believe and be saved' (Lk 8:12).  That which falls in rocky places are those who hear the word and immediately receive it with joy, but when some tribulation or persecution attends the cause of the word, they are left immediately scandalized (cf. Mt 13:21); these have no root in them; they are inconstant because they believe only for a while and in the hour of temptation fall away (cf. Lk 8:13).  That which falls among thorns are those who hear the word, but the cares of this world and the seduction of wealth and other inordinate desires enter their souls and suffocate the word and it remains barren fruit (cf. Mk 4:19).  'As for the part in the rich soil, these are people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance' (Lk 8:5)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221 (Chapter XXII

Works do not save us, but they are evidence that we have been saved and have received the Holy Spirit through Whom we bear fruit.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 20

We Take Our Cell With Us

"Wherever we are or wherever we are going, we have our cell with us.  For Brother Body is the cell, and the soul is the hermit who dwells in it, meditating there and praying to God.  Therefore, if the soul does not preserve quiet and solitude in its own cell, of what profit is a cell made by hands?"  --Legend of Perugia (1246-1247), 80

I had to chuckle when I read today's title....if the author only knew.....But I like the analogy of our bodies as the "cell" and our souls as the "hermit" that lives inside.  We  have merely borrowed the "cell" while here on earth.  If we would realize that Who we are is Soul and our bodies are temporary we'd get our priorities straight.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 19

Nothing of Their Own

"The brothers shall acquire nothing as their own, neither house, nor place, nor anything at all.  Instead, with all trust, let them go begging alms as pilgrims and strangers in this world serving the Lord in poverty and humility, and without shame, since the Lord made himself poor for us in this world.  This is the highest summit of poverty, which has made you, my most beloved brothers, heirs and kings in the kingdom of heaven; it has made you poor in material things but exalted in virtue.  Let this be your portion which crosses over into the land of the living (cf. Ps 142:5)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1223, Chapter VI

Francis and his Brothers were living examples of Christ.  While we may never live life to this extreme, we can have the attitude of being poor and needy--for Christ's sake--trusting Him for everything.


Monday, April 18, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 18

On Work and The Spirit of Prayer

"Those brothers to whom the Lord has given the grace of working are to work faithfully and with dedication.  Thus they will rout idleness, the enemy of the soul, and still not extinguish the spirit of holy prayer and devotion which all other temporal things must serve."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1223, Chapter V

As they say, idle hands are the devil's workshop.  Idleness is indeed the enemy of the soul!  I find that the greatest cure for anxiety is work--otherwise, I could easily fall into the sin of doubting God's goodness.  It's a great stress reliever (for my body) and allows my mind to turn to God rather than things on earth--the things I can't change anyway.  Often times, while working, solutions will just appear because I've taken my own hands off the problem.  At the very least working allows me to feel I've accomplished something while I wait for God's timing.   He uses this waiting time to grow me, or the other people involved, and gives me the opportunity to trust Him.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 17

How the Brothers Are to Serve

"All the brothers, wherever they find themselves serving or working for others, are not to be the administrators or officials or preside over the house where they are offering service.  Nor are they to accept any office which would cause scandal or bring harm to their souls.  But let them be the lesser ones and subject to all who dwell in the same house."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter VII

As I read Francis's words, "are not to be the administrators or officials or preside over the house where they are offering service," I immediately thought of my own household when my children were still at home.  It was my job to "serve" them in that I made the meals and "kept house" for them.  They had their chores, of course, but I was "in charge."  As Mom, I do not think I was supposed to be subject to my children, but I can see it would have made a difference if I saw myself as subject to God because serving my children was in actuality serving Him.  My believing that I was to be "in charge" took my household out of God's hands.  I believe this applies to all facets of life.  We are merely stewards of what God has created.  We may have specific responsibilities in taking care of what's been placed in our care, but we should never see ourselves as "in charge," or as Francis puts it, to "preside over."

Saturday, April 16, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 16

The Brothers Are Forbidden Beasts of Burden

"I enjoin all my brothers, be they clerics or laics, whether they go through the world or reside somewhere, that they have no beast of burden, either with them, or in the keeping of others, or any other way.  Nor are they permitted to ride horseback unless they are constrained by infirmity or great necessity."  --St. Francis Rule of 1221, Chapter XV

Francis's compassion extended to animals,  not wanting to put undue burden upon them, just as he was with people.


Friday, April 15, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 15

Compassion

"In his Last Testament, St. Francis writes, 'For I, being in sin(s), thought it bitter to look at lepers, and the Lord himself led me among them, and I worked mercy with them.  And when I left their company, I realized that what had seemed bitter to me, had been turned into sweetness of soul and body.'"  --The Testament of St. Francis

This is a beautiful example of how the Holy Spirit works in us when we give Him free reign!




Thursday, April 14, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 14

True Learning

"You have as much learning as you put into practice, and you are as good a preacher as you do what you say."  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 22


You have not "learned" anything until you actually use it, so we should not be surprised that when we are learning to be patient we will be given circumstances that require us to wait.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 13

Witnessing to the Gospel

"You can live spiritually among nonbelievers in two ways.  One way is to enter into arguments or disputes but for the sake of the Lord to be subject to every creature (cf. 1 P 2:13) and to acknowledge that you are Christians.  Another way is to proclaim God's word when you see it is pleasing to the Lord, so that those who do not believe may believe in the all-powerful God--Father and Son and Holy Spirit--Creator of everything, and in the Son who is Redeemer and Savior, and so that they may be baptized as Christians; for 'no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born through water and the Spirit'."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XVI

Francis is saying it would be easy to enter into arguments or disputes if we did not instead subject ourselves to every creature as we're told to in 1 Peter 2:13.  This is being a Christian by example.  The other way to witness is to "proclaim God's word when you see it is pleasing to the Lord."  It is necessary to seek God's will in whether or not to proclaim God's word.  Even Jesus did not always proclaim God's word when he knew it would not be received (Matthew 7:6).

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 12

Not Being Ashamed to Beg

"All the brothers should strive to follow the humility and poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they should remember that it is all they are to have in the whole world; for as the Apostle says, 'as long as we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that' (1Tm 6:8).  And they should rejoice when they go among those considered of little account and despicable; the poor and the weak and the sick; lepers, too, and beggars by the wayside.  And when it is necessary, let the brothers beg for alms.  And they are not to be ashamed, rather, they should remember that our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living, all-powerful God, set his face like flint (Is 50:7) and was not ashamed, though he was poor and homeless and lived on alms himself, as did the Blessed Virgin and his disciples."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter IX

When we are followers of Christ we will not fit into the world as others might.  Because outward appearances are what people see first, people will judge us by that.  That is why our countenance should reflect the love of Christ first and foremost.  Then there will be no cause for shame in anything we do for the Lord.


Monday, April 11, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 11

Of Those Who Injure or Take Advantage of Us

"The brothers should offer no resistance to injury (cf. Mt 5:39); indeed if someone slaps them on the cheek, they should offer the other as well (cf. Mt 5:39; Lk 6:29).  And if one should take their cloak, let them not hang on to their tunic.  Let them give to everyone who begs of them; and let them not seek to retrieve what someone takes away from them (cf. Lk 6:30)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XIV

You may wonder how this is reconciled with good stewardship. . . .at least, that has been my excuse to be cautious about giving to anyone that begs, whether it be money or some other request.  I cannot believe we are to give of our time to the point of burning ourselves out, for instance.  So the real issue is our motive for helping.  If it's for the Lord, then He will provide what we need and won't give us more than we can handle.  Rather than worry about who to help, how much to give, or whether the person "deserves" to be helped in the first place, we need to give all of ourselves to God.  He will sort it out.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 10

How the Brothers Are to Go Through the World

"When the brothers go through the world, they are to carry nothing for the journey, neither sack, nor scrip, nor bread; neither money, nor staff (cf. Lk 9:3; 10:4-8)  And into whatever house they enter, let them first say, 'Peace to this house!' (Lk 10:5)."  --St. Francis, Rule of 1221, Chapter XIV

Each of us are called to live this way, in a sense.  In our journey we should not carry a sack of unforgiveness, nor rely on our purses for our security.  I do not know of the significance of a staff in Francis's day, but I suspect it might have been used to traverse mountainous paths or to defend oneself.  If that is the case, then we, too, should forgo such devices if they interfere with our fully trusting God for our needs.  And, in all cases, we should bless every one we encounter!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 9

We Are Like Paintings

"In a panel painting representing the Lord or the Blessed Virgin, it is the Lord or Holy Virgin who is honored, while the wood and the painting claim nothing for themselves.  Similarly, a servant of God is a picture of God, in which God is honored for his favor.  And you may not claim credit that God is pictured through you, for compared to him you are less than the wood and the painting."  --Mirror of Perfection, 45

I love this analogy because I am learning how to draw and paint.  Before last year I couldn't draw anything.  I'd tried for years, without success.  So I am very aware that any ability I now have comes from God.  When I look at my art work, I see God's grace.  I just hope others see the same in my life.

Friday, April 8, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 8

Self-Deception

"Those who are preoccupied only with knowing and pointing out the way of salvation to others, and neglect their own, will arrive naked and empty-handed before Christ's judgment seat.  They will bring with them nothing but bundles of shame, disappointment, and bitterness.  Then shall the truth of holy humility, which is our vocation, be proclaimed, exalted, and glorified.  For those who were puffed up with learning prejudiced this truth by their own lives and by their empty words.  They said this truth was falsehood and they cruelly persecuted, as if they were blind, those who were really walking in the truth of holy humility."  --Mirror of Perfection, 72

This is the danger of living from our head rather than our heart.  We can be blinded by knowledge of right and wrong and any compassion and forgiveness that resides in our heart will be squelched.  Knowledge should always be coupled with humility or else we will arrive at Christ's judgment seat naked and empty-handed.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 7

On Those Who Preach Repentance

"Have no fear of being thought insignificant or unbalanced, but preach repentance with courage and simplicity.  Have faith in the Lord, who has overcome the world.  His Spirit speaks in you and through you, calling men and women to turn to him and observe his precepts.  You will encounter some who are faithful, meek, and well disposed; they will joyfully receive you and your words.  But there will be more who are skeptical, proud, and blasphemous, and who will insult you and resist your message.  Prepare yourselves, therefore, to bear everything with patience and humility."  --Legend of the Three Companions, 36 (1305-1320)


Things have not changed.  This message is as true for today as it was in the 1300s.  Human pride will always need to be crucified if our spirit is to be reconciled with our Creator.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 6

Our Home is in Heaven

"Francis wished that everything should sing pilgrimage and exile."  --Celano, Second Life, 60

For St. Francis life was all about our journey along the way to our true home.  When I realize that truth for myself my perspective changes.  Life's troubles take on new meaning.  They are merely stepping stones for being made perfect for my eternal home.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 5

The Mission of the Lesser Brothers

"The truth is that the Lord chose the Lesser Brothers and sent them forth for the welfare and salvation of all souls everywhere.  And not only will they be received in lands of the faithful but in lands of unbelievers as well.  And as long as they fulfill what they have promised the Lord, he will take care of their needs whether they be in the lands of those who do not believe or of those who do."  --Writings of Leo, Rufino, and Angelo, 73

Whenever the Lord sends us, He makes the way for us.  Rather than set our own agenda, we need to seek God's agenda.  Then all will go according to His plan.



Monday, April 4, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 4

The First Two Brothers Join St. Francis, April 16, 1208

"'Brother Bernard and Brother Peter, two gentlemen of Assisi, were the first to follow St. Francis.  They came to him and said quite simply, 'From now on we want to stay with you and do what you do.  Show us then what we should do with our belongings.'  Francis, overjoyed that they'd come and expressed their desire, answered lovingly, 'Let's go and ask the Lord's advice.'  So they headed for one of the churches of the city and, entering it, fell on their knees and prayed, 'Lord God, Father of Glory, we beg you in your mercy to reveal to us what we should do.'  Then when they'd finished praying, they said to the priest of the church who'd been standing nearby, 'Father, would you open the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ for us?'  The priest then opened the missal for them, since they still couldn't read too well, and these were the first words they came upon, 'If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven' (Mt 19:21).  Then turning to another page, they read, 'If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me' (Mt. 16:24).  And turning the pages yet another time, they read, 'Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and do not have a spare tunic' (Lk 9:3)  On hearing these words, they were filled with living joy and said, 'This is what we have been longing for, this is what we've been looking for!'  And the Blessed Francis said, 'This will be our Rule.'  Then, turning to the two men, he added, 'Go, then, and put into practice the advice you've heard from the Lord.'"  --Anonymous of Perugia, 2

I've found that the several devotional books I read every day will often speak about the same thing I've prayed about.  The first time I attended a Quaker meeting for worship, which is held in silence, someone stood to speak the words they felt the Spirit had laid on their heart, and had it speak to what was also on my heart.  God is constantly speaking to us through others or through His creation, if we would just be still and hear.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 3

Jesus, the Answer

"In prayer we talk to God and listen to him, and we walk with the angels.  But in preaching, we have to descend to the human and live among others as one of them, thinking and seeing and hearing and speaking only on the human level.  But, in favor of preaching, there is one argument which seems to count more than all the rest in God's eyes and it is this:  the only-begotten Son of God, who is Infinite Wisdom, descended from the Father's embrace to save souls.  He renewed the world by his own example, bringing the word of salvation to human being.  The price of this salvation was his precious Blood, which washes us clean, and is a fortifying drink.  He kept nothing for himself, but generously gave his all for our salvation.  We then are bound to act always according to the model which we see shining in him as on a high mountain.  Therefore it seems more in accord with God's will that I leave the repose of contemplation and go out into the world to work."  --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 12:1


St. Bonaventure writes of the new calling he felt God was laying on his heart.  In order to preach one must also spend time in prayer in order to receive God's Word and for time to rejuvenate from the rigors of going out into the world.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 2


The Contemplative or the Active Life?

"On one occasion St. Francis said to the brothers who were closest to him:  'What do you think?  Should I give my time to prayer or should I go about preaching?  I am a poor little simple one with no skill in speaking; I have received the gift of prayer rather than that of preaching.  Besides, in prayer we acquire graces while in preaching we deal out the graces we've received.  In prayer we purify the desires of our hearts and enter into union with the one, true, and supreme Good, and we grow in virtue.  In preaching, on the other hand, the dust of distraction and relaxed discipline enters the soul.'" --St. Bonaventure, Major Life, 12:1

God always needs those who will be about the business of prayer because much of His work here on earth is accomplished through prayer.   It is a solitary gift that is suited to some better than others.




Friday, April 1, 2016

St. Francis of Assisi - April 1

Pilgrims and Strangers in Christ Crucified

"God called St. Francis and his companions and chose them to bear the cross of Christ in their hearts and to preach it in word and action.  That is why they looked like and were in fact crucified men in their comportment and in their austere life, in their deeds and actions.  And that is why they wanted more to receive shame and insults for the love of Christ than the world's vain honors or respect or praise; that is why they were saddened when they were honored.  And so they went through the world as pilgrims and strangers, with Christ crucified as their only baggage."  --Little Flowers of St. Francis, Chapter 5

April is on the theme of Pilgrimage.  When we receive Christ as our Savior we each begin our own pilgrimage towards becoming more and more Christ-like.  We each will be called according to the gifts God gives us so we must never compare ourselves with others, only with Christ.