In this week’s vlog, I talk about the story of true and perfect according to St. Francis. Below I have copied the story in its entirety for those who have never read it.
One day in winter, as Saint Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to Saint Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”
A little further on, Saint Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”
Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.” Saint Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at Saint Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, “We are two of the brethren”, he should answer angrily, “What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say”; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.
And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, “Begone, miserable robbers! to to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!” – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.
And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, “These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve”; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.
And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, “What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?” But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, “I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.”
To the praise and glory of Jesus Christ and his poor servant Francis. Amen.
Short and simple…you are going to make a great priest in your wonderful order. Thank you!
Thank You Deacon,
the st. Francis account reminds me of what I read just last week.
This was in the Tablet newspaper,
I’d like to reprint this … From the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y..
Her name was Caroline
by Father Christopher R. Heanue
Her name was Caroline and she was known by all of the residents in the Richmond Hill section of Jamaica Avenue as the lady with the broom. Caroline was a staple of this southeastern section of Queens, doing her best to keep the streets and street corners clean of any and all trash every day.
Caroline was a simple woman who had a pretty rough upbringing. The trauma she suffered in her youth stayed with her for her entire life and she never truly recovered from it. This trauma changed her forever. However, Caroline kept her own innocence, and she exuded joy and love for her neighbor and neighborhood.
Caroline had faith – and practiced it more than regularly. A woman in her late 70s, she walked from her third-floor walk-up apartment on 107th Street to our parish on 111th Street for the 5 p.m. Vigil Mass on Saturdays. She would promptly return for the 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday. After shaking the hand of the priest presider, she would walk home and return again for the noontime Mass.
Caroline had “her seat” – first pew, next to the lector, where she could see the priest presider and smile at him whenever they made eye contact. She would watch everyone approach for Holy Communion, as if she were the Queen of Richmond Hill. And she greeted everyone with her smile as they approached the altar to receive our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In the Book of Genesis, God gives man dominion over the earth, over the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, wild and tame. In this brief passage, much is learned about stewardship and care for God’s creation. The human race receives its dignity and worth from God. We are entrusted to be good stewards with God’s creation in our everyday lives.
Caroline was a true example of this call to be a good steward of God’s creation. From walking the streets to attending parish parties, she would be equipped with her broom and dustpan in order to do her part for her community. She was also equipped with a whistle, which she would proudly blow if she ever saw anyone litter on the street! Her simple act of sweeping reminded us of the care and concern that we should have as stewards of God’s creation.
There are many paths to holiness, to sainthood. The saints, like Mother Teresa remind us to do “small things with great love.” In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that humility is the way to holiness and that we are called “to serve” and not “to be served.” Caroline exemplified and personified this Gospel message.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
Caroline passed away in her apartment on a Tuesday this October. Her example of doing small things with great love will never be forgotten by this humble servant and by the many residents of Richmond Hill.
She was 80 and still attending Mass in her extraordinarily regular way. Her seat is now empty and there is no one to offer that smile to the priest presider, or communicants as they approach the altar. But her impact on our lives will remain in our hearts forever.
And it is my prayer that as Caroline approaches the gates of heaven, she is greeted by St. Peter proclaiming, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did her job well, rest now from your labors.”
Father Heanue is the administrator of Holy Child Jesus parish, Richmond Hill.