Saints

The boldness of St. Francis

I read today about how, after searching out whether God called to him to preach or pray, when given the answer, St Francis ran out and preached the gospel first of all to a large flock of birds of various kinds, who listened with reverence and perhaps even true piety. 4bc7872c090c71da62a65f182c7c3ff1“My brother birds,” he said, “you should greatly praise your Creator, who clothed you with feathers, gave you wings for flight, confided to you purity of the air, and governs you without your least care.” As he spoke, they listened actively, fluttering about in a wonderful way, stretching their necks, spreading their wings, opening their beaks and looking at him. ‘He passed through their midst with amazing fervour of spirit, touching them with his tunic.’ And at the end of it all, he reproached himself for not preaching to the birds sooner!

What really strikes me here, is his incredible boldness. Francis walks in a different world to me, a world where the most extraordinary things can be taken for granted, simply because God is with him. He doesn’t doubt or hesitate: God is with him.

This story isn’t even the best demonstration of this bold confidence. There is the time he was faced with a man-eating wolf. Where I would quickly rack my brains and try say my “best prayer”, Francis simply makes the sign of the cross, and immediately makes peace. Or when Francis was offered chicken on a Friday (he couldn’t eat chicken on a Friday, but also must “accept whatever you are given” [Lk 10:8]). I can’t imagine what sophistry I would use, but Francis simply makes the sign of the cross over it, and it comes back to life and flies away!

In fact, this boldness characterises his whole life. As soon as he receives God’s call, he jumps to action, no questions asked (meaning he didn’t fully understand a couple of times). He is defiantly “unrealistic” in his way of life, and that of his followers too. They live firmly in the knowledge that they can never trust him too much, and never love him too much.

St. Francis is the most exciting saint I’m aware of, because he’s a madman running head first into God.

 

I pray that I may live with bold confidence in God, just like St Francis.

God bless you!

 

P.S. I was reading from the Major Life of Saint Francis by St. Bonaventure, in Such is the Power of Love

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St Anselm of Canterbury and Sola Scriptura

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St Anselm of Canterbury, the Magnificent Doctor

‘Therefore, just as at the beginning God marvellously, without cultivator or seeds, created grain and other terrestrial things to nourish people, so too he marvellously, without human learning, made the minds of prophets and apostles and, above all, the Gospels, rich with seeds for our salvation. These are the source of whatever we sow salutarily, in God’s husbandry, for the nourishment of our souls, just as what we cultivate for the nourishment of our bodies derives only from the original seeds of the earth.

‘In fact, we proclaim what is useful for the salvation of souls only what Sacred Scripture, made fecund by the marvellous activity of the Holy Spirit, has produced or contains in its womb. For if at times we assert by a process of reasoning a conclusion which we cannot explicitly cite from the sayings of Scripture or demonstrate from the bare wording, still it is by using Scripture that we know in the following way whether the affirmation should be accepted or rejected. If the conclusion is reached by straightforward reasoning and Scripture in no way contradicts it, then (since just as Scripture opposes no truth so too it abets no falsehood) by the very fact that it does not deny what is inferred on the basis of reason, that conclusion is accepted as authorised by Scripture. But if Scripture indubitably opposes our understanding, ever though our reasoning appears to us to be impregnable, still it ought not to be believed to be substantiated by any truth at all. It is when Sacred Scripture either clearly affirms or in no wise denies it, that it gives support to the authority of any reasoned conclusion.’

-De Concordia 3:6

 

Is St Anselm supporting some form of the protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura, over four centuries before Martin Luther? Sort of.

That’s not to say that this Roman Catholic Archbishop and Doctor of the Church didn’t acknowledge the authority of the Church’s magisterium (i.e. authoritative teaching) however. That the minds of prophets and apostles are the original seeds, seems to imply that that the fruit they bore produced the plants that nourish us now, which must surely be their legitimate successors. For St Anselm, that must have meant the Holy Catholic Church and his fellow bishops. So we can’t say Scripture was for him the sole authority, as Luther made it.

However, he does clearly consider the Scriptures alone to be sufficient to tell between all truth and falsehood, at least regarding ‘what is useful for the salvation of souls’. Everything we teach must either be straight from Scripture, or proceed from straightforward reasoning and not contradict the Scriptures. Simple enough. While every heresy must, however reasonable it may seem, contradict the Scriptures and so be rejected. Revelation must protect us against the horrific reasonableness of heresy, because what else could? Yes, the magisterium of the Church, but the magisterium always refers us back to the revelation given to us once and for all in Jesus Christ.

This is a point we need to be clear on: The Church, as the authoritative interpreter of the Scriptures, has no authority over the Scriptures. Interpretation has come to mean something dishonest in our times; we suppose the meaning is being distorted and lost; in our post-modern world, we’ve started to wonder if there are any “correct interpretations”. Yes, there are. If the Bible is the Word of God, then its meaning is what God means by it, not what I decide to make of it. No one cares what I think. The Church, then, is the authoritative interpreter of Scripture, simply because She is the one who hears God’s voice and listens. The Scriptures were spoken to the Church, the Beloved Bride of Christ, and therefore they are Hers to understand. The Word of God belongs to Her, precisely because She belongs to the Word; ‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’ [Sg 6:3].

Yes, the Scriptures are also written to me particularly, but to me within the Church. They are never my private possession. The faith is mine, because it is ours. It is mine, only because I am a living member of the Body of Christ, and my faith cannot contradict that of the Church. As I wrote in the past, your religion is mine, and mine is yours.

 

I hope and pray that all Christians can establish true unity with one another. ‘Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’ Amen.

“Anything that you ask of Me, I promise you to do”

‘I was once earnestly importuning the Lord to restore the sight of a person who was almost blind, and to whom I had a certain obligation; I was very sorry for him, and feared that the Lord would not hear me on account of my sins. But He appeared to me as on previous occasions, and began to show me the wound in His left hand. Then with His right He drew out a long nail that had been driven through it, and as He pulled at it, He seemed to tear His flesh. It was clear how painful this must be, and it distressed me greatly. “Seeing that I have done this for you,” He said, “you need have no doubt that I will even more readily do what you have asked Me. Anything that you ask of Me, I promise you to do, for I know that you will never ask for anything that will not redound to My glory. Therefore I will do what you ask of Me now. Even when you did not serve Me, you never asked for anything that I did not grant you in a better form than ever you were able to imagine. Do not doubt, therefore, that I shall do so now, when I know that you love Me.”`
-from The Life of St. Teresa of Avila by Herself, chapter 39

God bless you!

Quotes…

‘This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. But those really free are the minority who wield economic and financial power.’
Pope Francis (Laudato Si n. 203)

‘It seems to me that an unjust law is no law at all.’
St. Augustine of Hippo

‘Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.’
St. Augustine of Hippo

‘By faithfulness we are collected and wound up into unity within ourselves, whereas we had been scattered abroad in multiplicity.’
St. Augustine of Hippo

‘God is best known in not knowing him.’
St. Augustine of Hippo

‘We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread. Furthermore, such actions can restore our sense of self-esteem; they can enable us to live more fully and to feel that life on earth is worthwhile.’
Pope Francis (Laudato Si n. 212)

‘Let us behave like the drunkard who doesn’t think of himself but only of the wine he has drunk and of the wine that remains to be drunk.’
St. Catherine of Siena (with regard to how we should enjoy God)

‘The soul is in some way all things.’
Aristotle

‘This is a subtle truth. Whatever you love, you are.’
Rumi

‘Never am I less alone than when alone.’
St. Bernard

‘To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.’
Pope Francis


‘To claim the right to abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others.’
St. John Paul II (Evangelium Vitae n. 20)

‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist.’
Dom Hélder Camara

‘Many people are talking about the poor, but very few people talk to the poor.’
Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

‘The deepest essence of love is self-giving.’
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

St. Therese of Lisieux

St. Therese is my favourite Saint (except of course Mary, my mother), or more accurately, my best friend in heaven. I love her deeply, and thought I would give her a brief introduction, so you might discover or rediscover her.

The funny thing about St. Therese, is it’s difficult to say if she’s very ordinary or extraordinary. She clearly thought of herself as completely ordinary. But this ordinary young nun has made a truly extraordinary impact on the world, and on those she personally knew. Of all the unlikely people to change the world, few are as out of the blue as her. Perhaps the carpenter’s son…

And it’s just this paradox of the extraordinary ordinary that characterises her. Her greatness doesn’t lie in any special talents or abilities or genius. She performed no great feats or miracles. To all human eyes, she was not made for greatness. But God doesn’t judge by our standards, and like the little King David, she had a heart after the Lord’s own heart.

She is extraordinary only because of her extraordinary love and trust in Jesus. That is all she had, but that’s all we need, and all that counts.

So please, get to know St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. Her autobiography, ‘The Story of a Soul’, is available for free online, although you’ll want a copy once you read it. There’s a very good reason she’s been called the greatest Saint of modern times, and a favourite of Bl. Mother Teresa and Pope Francis, among many others.

For some time I had been accustomed to offer myself as a plaything to the Child Jesus. I told Him not to treat me like an expensive toy which children look at but dare not touch. I was a cheap little ball which He could fling on the ground or kick or pierce or leave neglected in a corner or even press to His Heart if it gave Him pleasure. To put it in a nutshell, I longed to amuse the little Jesus and offer myself to His childish whims.

He answered my prayer. In Rome, Jesus pierced His little toy. He wantedto see what was inside and then, having found out, He let His little ball drop and went to sleep. What did He dream about and what happened to the abandoned ball? Jesus dreamt that He was still playing with it, picking it up and dropping it, letting it roll away from Him, but in the end pressing it close to His Heart and never letting it slip again from His little Hand. You can understand, Mother, how sad the little ball was to see itself lying on the ground, but she went on hoping against all hope.

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God bless you

 

“Who can describe the constraining power of a love for God?”

‘If there is true Christian love in a man, let him carry out the precepts of Christ. Who can describe the constraining power of a love for God? Its majesty and its beauty who can adequately express? No tongue can tell the heights to which love can uplift us. Love binds us fast to God. Love casts a veil over sins innumerable. There are no limits to love’s endurance, no end to its patience. Love is without servility, as it is without arrogance. Love knows of no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship. It was in love that all God’s chosen saints were made perfect; for without love nothing is pleasing to Him. It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love He bore us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us – His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives.’
-The First Epistle of St. Clement (1st century bishop of Rome) to the Corinthians n.49

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I just really loved this passage, and thought to share it. The whole epistle is brilliant, and a great insight into how the early Church looked and what it believed.

If you want more, here are some translations of the whole thing.
God bless you!

God is a camera and the Saints are models

In every photo, there is an invisible presence. You cannot point to it within the photo, yet every portion of the photo bears witness to it. The picture does not contain the camera, but without the camera, there is no photo. It is always there and never seen.

To make a good photo, the whole scene must be arranged with the camera in mind. Every position, every arrangement, every pose, must be chosen with regard to the camera, so that the camera can bring out the best of everything before it.

Sometimes, the models look straight at the camera, entirely there to be captured. Sometimes, they don’t look directly at the camera, so they can be photographed as doing something else; but still, to make a good photo, the camera must still be in mind, with every aspect directed to the camera’s service.

Likewise in our lives, we must live with regard to God, who gives us being and is ever present, if we are to live well. Sometimes, we must look directly towards Him, offering direct worship, and being there entirely for Him. And sometimes, we must keep our eyes on whatever we are currently doing, but remain mindful of God, and orient our every action to His service and His pleasure. Whatever we are doing, we must do for the glory of God. That is the rule of the Saints.

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St Therese of Liseux, posing for a photo

God bless you

St Edith Stein quote

‘Prayer is the communication of the soul with God. God is love, and love is goodness giving itself away. It is a fulness of being that does not want to remain enclosed in itself, but rather to share itself with others, to give itself to them, and to make them happy. All of creation exists thanks to this divine love spending itself. However, the highest of all God’s creatures are those endowed with spirit, able to receive God’s love with understanding and to return it freely: angels and human souls. Prayer is the highest achievement of which the human soul is capable. But it is not merely a human achievement. Prayer is a Jacob’s ladder on which the human spirit ascends to God and God’s grace descends to people. The stages of prayer are distinguished according to the measure in which the natural efforts of the soul and God’s grace participate. When the soul is no longer active by virtue of its own efforts, but is simply a receptacle for grace, one speaks of a mystical life of prayer.’
– St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein)

Edith Stein is fast becoming one of my favourite saints. She was born in a German Jewish family, lost faith by her teenage years, earned a doctorate in philosophy, converted to Catholicism, was important in the German Catholic women’s movement, became a Discalced Carmelite nun, and was martyred by the Nazis in Auschwitz. She was distinguished by a great mind and a great heart.

The quote is taken from Edith Stein: Essential Writings, in which it is part of a larger selection taken from a “bio-historical sketch” of St. Teresa of Avila, her namesake in the religious life.

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St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, pray for us!