By The Hermits, Nov 20 2016 12:03PM
When St. Francis began to preach that momentous day, after he heard the Gospel of the feast of St. Matthias being read at Mass about the sending out of the disciples by Christ to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cleanse the lepers, and most importantly of all, about taking nothing for the journey. Not long after this, the beginning of the order of St Francis, the first disciples arrive, and so begins the great romance and adventure of the Franciscan Order, sadly so blighted by disputes over poverty, that elusive Lady Poverty, so perfectly understood by Francis, but not by most people.
Francis’s preaching, as one of his great biographers Omer Englebert points out, and is mentioned by Francis’ first biographer Thomas of Celano, is that “Contrary to the lay reformers who swarmed at the time, he did not curse his own day nor attack anyone. He confined himself to reciting the Gospel with such humility and charm and assurance, that it found again in his mouth its original power and freshness.” Francis’ literal imitation of Christ has never been surpassed, though his great contemporary and kindred spirit, St. Dominic, is a perfect imitator of Christ, but not so literalist.
This is why people loved Francis, because his simple preaching would not allow of casuistry. He was black and white, as for that matter was that other great St. Francis, namely Francis Xavier; for it was on one of his journeys that that great missionary responded to the death of the pagan Chinese captain. He did not immediately pray for the man’s soul. When asked by a companion why he did not pray for the repose of the man’s soul, St. Francis Xavier replied “Because he is in hell”. One is not sure whether this was a spiritual knowledge, or a strict interpretation of “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” The chronological snobbery of our lacklustre unromantic age would say “Francis Xavier was very much a product of his times, and the Tridentine Church.” The subtext is “We of course know better”. It is the same dreary and heretical rubbish that Pope Francis came out with some time ago, when he said that the miracle of the feeding of the Five Thousand in fact was that everyone shared what they had, but that flies in the face of the text, which does not say anything about sharing, and worse still is an insult to Christ, who is King of all Creation and God.
St. Francis Assisi saw himself as “the herald of the great King”, and his life of poverty gave him that great freedom of always praising God, either in contemplative prayer, praising out aloud, or singing. In fact Francis seems to, like all troubadours of his time, be singing so much of the time. If he is not doing that then he is to be seen sending out his friars to preach, by getting them to twirl themselves around until they fall over, and then go in the direction in which their bodies are pointing towards. There is no planning here, no incredibly long formation for contemplative nuns that the Pope has just produced, and which is another version of the Jesuit formation. Though St. Francis saw himself and his friars as spiritual versions of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, there was nothing of that rigid formation or militarism of Ignatius’ Jesuits. The Jesuit Order being militaristic seems to have become more like the S.A.S, or S.O.E in World War II, but St. Francis turns the whole world into a wonderful children’s playground. Here there is laughter, life, praise, and gratitude.
The Pope having taken the name of Francis, which I suspect has more to do with Francis of Assisi than Francis Xavier, has sadly been more and more losing the point. He is not in the playground with St. Francis and his companions, instead is a schoolmaster or school prefect who is always trying to teach people a lesson; unfortunately it is never the right lesson. He tells us that three of the worst problems today are youth unemployment, the plight of the elderly, and global warming. St. Francis would boggle at such a notion, for him the greatest problem is that God is not loved enough and that there are not enough heralds of the great King, and he would be horrified at abortion and transgenderism. Because everything from an unborn baby, to one’s gender, and the whole of creation, are priceless gifts from a Creator who is so humble that he becomes a little baby, and becomes a tiny host at Mass. St. Francis was continuously amazed at God’s endless generosity. He would have not truck with climate change as he would be only too aware that God oversees the World not us. St. Francis had an immense trust, and quite what the Poverello would make of a plate dinner for the ultra-wealthy in the Sistine Chapel I dread to think. However, he would have been pleased that the Pope was housing refugees in the Vatican.
One thing that St. Francis could not tolerate was the scolding mentality. He was too aware of his own sinfulness to go on about the sins of the clergy and the higher clergy. He did denounce wickedness, especially wars, and strove always to make peace, but the peace was based on beatitudes and humility and that everyone and everything is a brother and sister, and you don’t spend your time fault finding with your brothers and sisters unless you want to be really unpopular, and that sadly is what the Pope is doing.
The Pope’s latest fault-finding is with the illustrious and noble Cardinals Burke, Brandmuller, Caffara, and Meisner, who simply asked for clarification on behalf of the very confused Faithful about the true meaning of this quite unnecessary Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. The Cardinals sent the Pope a private letter. He did not reply, surely this is discourteous, something that St. Francis was the complete opposite of. St. Francis was a true knight, noble and courteous. When the Pope is forced to reply, because the Cardinals have no option but to go public, he apparently goes into a rage, and goes on about people being rigid and goes on about morality being about the movement of life or something incredibly vague. Then on the Pope’s side, his doughty Knight Fr. Spadaro S. J. starts tweeting on his phone about the Cardinals being like Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings poisoning the minds. Of whom? I suppose the laity. What the good Father has failed to understand is that the illustration is wrong. The Cardinals are like Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and the Pope is like King Theoden, whose mind has been poisoned by an assortment of Grima Wormtongue’s like Cardinals Marx, Kasper, Cupich, and Father Spadaro himself. One thing that they will not be doing is playing in St. Francis’s idyllic garden. They won’t be seesawing with children on the seesaw a la Brother Juniper. Neither will they, like St Philip Neri and St. Felix of Cantalice be seesawing together in Rome. There is no joy in this Pontificate. There are no knights of Christ among these serious clerics, there are only plans, ideologies, and compromises with the cruel and wicked modern world. There is not attempt to convert, only to flatter modernity, and extol Modernism. It is a Grey Church, whose liturgy is short, banal and dull. Let us discover on this great Feast of Christ the King what it means to be heralds of the Great King and Knights of Christ. Let us romp in God’s playground and enjoy the Father’s warmth and the brotherhood of Christ, and let us take the Faith seriously and ourselves not at all, and let us not carp or cant or scold. Let us have the joy of St. Francis and let us pray that a little bit of it will rub off on the Pope.
Let us hope that Pope Francis will be caught up in that immense vision of Christ the King, majestic, riding on his great white horse, flashing with jewels, crowned with the crown of all crowns, the Divine Kingship accompanied by a great army of every conceivable class of people, every nation that has ever existed, every civilization that has been founded, and in the rays flashing from the hands of the Divine King Christ Our Lord, may we see the beauty that he pours over all his beloved disciples throughout the ages, and let us hope that the poor Pope will finally experience true joy before it is too late.
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