Tuesday, July 05, 2011
A friar once said to Brother Giles, "Father, tell me, how can we avoid this pride?" To whom Brother Giles made this reply, "Rest assured, my brother, that thou canst never hope to be free from pride until thou hast first placed thy mouth where thou dost set thy feet; but if thou wilt well consider the gifts of God, thou wilt clearly see that thou hast reason to bow down thy head..."
Little Flowers of St. Francis
PART FOUR: Chapter III
I was recently asked, “How do you become a good Franciscan?” I replied, “It's simple, the same way you become a good Catholic...let your nose hit the dirt!”
Humility is said to be the guardian of all virtues, and some believe the most lacking virtue in the Church today. In his letters, St. Paul tells us that it is only through humility and a contrite heart that we can dare to come face-to- face with our living God. The arrogant He will destroy! Yet many of us continue destroying ourselves through our selfish arrogance and pride.
Polls indicate that more and more people today view God and religion as irrelevant, disingenuous, and tiresome. Of grave concern to the Catholic Church is that many of its clerics and religious are now beginning to share these same views with the public (and in public), placing themselves in direct opposition to the teachings of the Pope, bishops, priests and Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. Some Catholic Theologians even tout the modern-day disciplines as being far more superior to the archaic early Doctors of the Church (most notably St. Thomas Aquinas), primarily due to our new, modernistic, open-minded approach. They have stamped the early church Fathers as obsolete and therefore irrelevant. Please show me the humility in that. St. Francis warned us all in his letter to St. Anthony, “I am pleased that you are teaching sacred theology to the brothers, so long as this kind of study, as our Rule has it, does not extinguish the spirit of prayer and devotion.”
Francis maintained constant vigilance in his pursuit of perfect humility, understanding that it is the singular virtue by which we learn to know our true selves. Only through the knowledge of his own sinful nature was Francis able to see himself as he really was in God's eyes; a vile and worthless sinner, saved only by God's merciful gift of grace. The Psalmist begs “Can we be anything else before the awesomeness of our God?” We are what we are in God's eyes, and nothing more! It is this self-realization that tore a hole large enough in Francis' heart to allow God to pour His graces into him. This is how God knocked Francis off his "High Horse" and brought him down low enough to care for lepers and sinners, to openly confess his faults in his sermons to the people, and to prefer insults and injury to vain and worthless praise and glory!
Society's quarrels lie not with the Church nor it's people, rather it's with what the Church represents: God! People simply don't want God telling us how we should think, believe, and especially not how we are to behave. It's been this way since Adam and Eve and remains so today as we continue reaching up to pull that fruit off the tree and devour it! Like water, human nature has never ceased following the path of least resistance.
So how do we find humility so that we too can open ourselves up to receiving God's love and mercy? For those who are unfamiliar with the Admonitions of St. Francis, they are twenty-eight observances or words of advice used as a model for the followers of St. Francis to imitate. Studying and observing these sublime exhortations will teach us how to achieve holy humility while still here on earth. They continue to instruct us how to “let your nose hit the dirt!”.
Pax Et Bonum!