ECS Wellbeing: Bishop Martin’s Awareness Practice- Week 10
St Francis of Assisi – Part II
‘Poverty, Simplicity, Joy’
Poverty: Be careful who you turn away! You never know it might be….
Francis of Assisi was aware that some of the young brothers [friars] who joined him were inclined to be giving huge amounts of time to prayer, but not to the needy on the streets. [NB – 13th century Italy]. One day, he left the little friars’ house, to return when it was dark, to teach the brothers a lesson. At about 8.00pm, when the brothers were having a late supper, Francis knocked on the door. Eventually, a brother came to the door and all he could see in the dark was a tramp begging for some bread. It was Francis in disguise. He was told to ‘clear off’. Francis came back about half an hour later, with the same result. On the third occasion, after Francis had knocked loudly, a brother said to him: “The door is locked and you have woken us up!’ Francis replied, ‘It’s about time you woke up!’. Taking off his hood, the brother realised that the poor man was THE little poor man [Il Povorello] – Francis himself! ‘Remember’, said Francis, ‘you might be telling Christ himself to clear off. In fact, you just have!’
Simplicity: When you pray, do so in a way that no one knows…. Keep it simple.
Bernard of Quintevalle was a learned man. Although he was intrigued by Francis and his small band of brothers, he thought Francis might be a bit of a fraud. On one of Francis’ walks through Italy, Bernard joined him to find out. One night the two of them slept against a wall of an old shed in a field. Now Francis had the habit of getting up in the middle of the night to pray with his arms spread in the shape of Christ’s cross, when no-one was watching. He pretended to be asleep as he didn’t want Bernard to spot him. Bernard too pretended to sleep by snoring loudly. Francis, confident that Bernard was asleep, stood up and a few steps away spread his arms and gently whispered his prayer – a kind of mantra – ‘Deus Meus et Omnia’ – My God and my all, repeating the sentence to hold his attention. Bernard carried on pretending to be asleep, but opened one eye and saw and heard Francis praying. That was it. Francis is the genuine thing – the little simple saint with his simple praying! Bernard became a friar, a great preacher and teller of stories.
Joy. ‘Tread softly or you’ll tread on my jokes.’
Francis of Assisi and Brother Juniper were in an empty church. Juniper told a joke about himself which made Francis laugh with a huge belly-laugh. The parish priest burst into the church, scolding them for their misbehaviour, bringing jokes and laughter into the holy place. “No joking and laughing in here. Off with you.” Francis looked at the priest and said, ‘Looking at your eyes, there is a joy in there. The next time you prepare to celebrate Mass, tell the congregation a joke and make them laugh and you’ll find that when it comes to communion, Christ will laugh with you.” The priest replied, “But I’m a sad man.” “Sorrow is important too,” continued Francis. “In sorrow, you have a taste of Christ’s suffering. But in laughter, you have a taste of His Resurrection”
Who have you ‘turned away’ or ‘turned away from that might well have been the hidden Christ?
What can you do to make your living a little simpler?
What’s your favourite joke?
This week, I’m sharing a few jokes about Francis in my assemblies, which may make you laugh, but maybe groan – with a smile.
Who is the patron saint of an email? St Francis of a CC!
What was Francis’ job in Kentucky Fried Chicken? He was a deep friar!
Who is the patron saint of the security camera? St ~Francis of a CCTV.
Groan… but at least smile. Have you got any better ones?
Bishop Martin Shaw