Faith is not for the feint of heart.

In the face of the realities we often experience in much of life, faith requires grit and determination. It is not always easy to maintain a vision of goodness, purity, love, and compassion at the heart of all life when we face many circumstances that appear to contradict a vision of love and beauty.

There is a famous parable St. Francis is alleged to have shared with his brother Leo, that illustrate the saint’s understanding of the rigorous nature of faith.

Here is my version of the St. Francis story:

True Joy According To St. Francis

One day near St. Mary of the Angels, Blessed Francis summoned Friar Leo calling, ‘Friar Leo.’

‘Here I am,’ replied Brother Leo.

St. Francis said, “I am going to tell you what is true joy. I want you to write down my words.

“Imagine if you would that a messenger from Paris arrives to visit our Order. He announces that all the most prestigious and learned scholastic teachers of the great schools of Paris have sought to join our Brotherhood. Write down: true joy will not be found therein.

“Imagine all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops and even the king of France and the king of England came to join our Order. Write down: true joy will not be found therein.

“Further, imagine that all our friars were to go out into the world, among the unbelievers and convert them all to faith Christ, or imagine I should have so much grace from God that I had power to heal the sick and work miracles. Write down: true joy will not be found therein.”

Brother Francis paused in his story. Then he asked Brother Leo,

“So, if none of these great and wondrous events is true joy, wherein may lie the source of true joy?

“Imagine I have been out walking in the countryside all day. I have been tirelessly caring for the poor, sharing the good news of God’s great love for all creation, and begging alms for the provision of our Order. It is late at night. I have just returned to my blessed home here in Assisi after walking 25 kms from Perugia. It is the depths of winter; the wind howls; it is muddy and so cold that icicles have formed on the hem of my tunic and strike against my legs without ceasing, wounding my flesh and drawing blood.

“Thus covered with mud, bleeding, soaked and frozen I come to the door of the home we share.  I call out to my brothers inside and knock on the wooden door. After an endless wait, the door opens a crack. A friar peers out into the dark night and asks: ‘Who are you?’

“‘I am your brother, Friar Francis,’ I answer. My brother replies, ‘Begone! This is not an hour to be wandering around!’ and slams the door tight shut behind him.

“But I stand on the door step and persist, knocking again even louder than before. From within a voice calls out ‘Begone! You are a worthless fellow, a simpleton. Don’t come here anymore. We have no room for the likes of you!’

“I continue pounding on the door pleading, ‘For the love of God give me shelter in this cold dark blustery night.’

“The answer comes again, ‘We will not admit one like you. Go to the hospital of the Cross Bearing Brethren and ask them for hospitality.’

“And so I lie alone and frozen on the doorstep of my own home forbidden entrance and left to freeze through the night.

“Now, I tell you my Brother, if I endure all this hardship, injustice, and suffering with patience, and without dismay or resentment, therein is found true joy, true virtue and the full salvation of God.”

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Francis embodies here the quality of faith that is attributed to the biblical figure of Job who proclaimed of God,

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15 NIV)

This is a faith that does not depend upon things going well; it transcends all judgments of good, better, best. It does not operate in the region of likes and dislikes. The is the tenacious faith of Francis, Job, and Yosl Rakover (https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/the-tenacity-of-faith/)

Does my faith depend upon my circumstances being a certain way?

Am I able to maintain my conviction of goodness, beauty, and love at the heart of all creation even when the events of life may appear to contradict this vision of light and truth?

What are the practices in my life that help sustain my faith and nurture my determination to hold firm to the deeper reality of the universe of which I catch glimpses even in the midst of difficulty and struggle?

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