Thursday, October 4, 2012

Devotion for today: To pray or to preach…that is the question (Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4)

Born Giovanni Francesco di Pietro di Bernardone, St. Francis of Assisi actually wrote very little, but others wrote a great deal about him, recording many wonderful events in his life as well as many of his teachings. The following selection is taken from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis”. Although it is a bit long, it is a wonderful read. Tomorrow we will reflect on scripture verses which pertain to the many themes in this story.

The humble servant of Christ, St. Francis, at the beginning of his conversion when he had already gathered many companions and received them in the Order, was placed in great agony of doubt as to what he should do: whether to give himself only to continual prayer or to preach sometimes. He wanted very much to know which of these would please our Lord Jesus Christ most. And as the holy humility that was in him did not allow him to trust in himself or in his own prayers, he humbly turned to others in order to know God’s will in this matter.

So he called Brother Masseo and said to him, “Dear Brother, go to Sister Clare and tell her on my behalf to pray devoutly to God, with one of her more spiritual companions, that He may deign to show me what is best: either that I preach sometimes or that I devote myself only to prayer. And then go also to Brother Silvester, who is staying on Mount Subasio, and tell him the same thing.” This was the Lord Silvester who had seen a cross of gold issuing from the mouth of St. Francis which extended in length to heaven and in width to the ends of the world. And this Brother Silvester was so devout and holy that God immediately granted or revealed to him whatever he asked in prayer. The Holy Spirit had made him remarkably deserving of divine communications, and he had conversed with God many times. And, therefore, St. Francis was very devoted to him and had great faith in him.

Brother Masseo went and, as St. Francis had ordered him, gave the message first to St. Clare and then to Brother Silvester. When the latter received it, he immediately set himself to praying. And while praying, he quickly had God’s answer. He went out at once to Brother Masseo and said: “The Lord says you are to tell Brother Francis this: that God has not called him to this state only on his own account, but that he may reap a harvest of souls and that many may be saved through him.” After this Brother Masseo went back to St. Clare to know what she had received from God. And, she answered that both she and her companion had had the very same answer from God as Brother Silvester.

Brother Masseo therefore returned to St. Francis. And the saint received him with great charity; he washed his feet and prepared a meal for him. And after he had eaten, St. Francis called Brother Masseo into the woods. And there he knelt down before Brother Masseo, and baring his head and crossing his arms, St. Francis asked him: “What does my Lord Jesus Christ order me to do?” Brother Masseo replied that Christ had answered both Brother Silvester and Sister Clare and her companion and revealed that “He wants you to go about the world preaching, because God did not call you for yourself alone, but also for the salvation of others.”

And then the hand of the Lord came over St. Francis. As soon as he heard this answer and thereby knew the will of Christ, he got to his feet, all aflame with divine power and said to Brother Masseo with great fervor, “So let’s go – in the name of the Lord!” And he took as companions Brother Masseo and Brother Angelo, holy men. And he set out like a bolt of lightning in this spiritual ardor, not paying any attention to the road or path. (taken from the book “Devotional Classics, selected readings for individuals and groups, edited by Richard J. Foster and James Bryan Smith, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993)

Prayer: The Prayer, by St. Ignatius of Loyola

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.








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