Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Sacred Stigmata


Penance
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Today is a feast of St. Francis of Assisi, since on this day he received the sacred stigmata, or the wounds of Christ crucified, in his own flesh.
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The Third Order of St. Francis was founded for those who wished to follow the spiritual discipline of the Friars Minor while remaining in their particular station in life. As we know, observing the duties of one's state in life is sometimes the greatest penance of all. For example, the single person must remain chaste while earning his own keep or possibly caring for an aged parent or friend. The married person must remain faithful no matter what - not abandoning his spouse, earning a living, raising a family, and so on. All Christians first duty is to God of course, keeping the commandments, assisting at Mass, constancy in prayer, fidelity to the laws, discipline and teachings of the Church, etc.. All these ordinary things comprise the duties of one's state in life - they are little things, but the means of sanctification.
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The Brothers and Sisters of Penance, as the first secular Franciscans were called, undertook much more however. They added more daily prayers and special fasts and abstinence to their lives. They dressed more modestly and poorly, lived more frugally with out luxury and unnecessary convenience, and either gave alms or served the very poor as best they could, according to their means and abilities. Their life took on the character of the religious they so admired, and the poor they served. The very poor and illiterate did likewise, often increasing corporal penance and prayer to a heroic degree.
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I'm amongst those of us who have lost the sense of penance, or the idea that one is morally obliged to be faithful to what is routine and mundane in one's responsibilities. For instance, when I got tired or bored with my job, I would stay home and use a sick day - a lot! When I got really bored, I quit that particular job. Even now, when I don't feel like painting, I don't. If I'm too tired for daily Mass, I stay in bed. If I don't want to clean the house, I don't. If I want a beer, I have one. If I want steak, I eat one. If my computer goes down, I get mad and complain. If my life isn't comfortable, I do what I can to make it so.
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So the feast of the Sacred Stigmata reminds me of the penance I owe for the many sins of selfish self-indulgence I continue to commit, wallowing in my sloth, while criticising priests and religious and other good people whom I envy and I'm jealous of because they are better Catholics than I am.
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Art: "St. Francis carried dying to St. Mary of the Angels offering a last blessing to Assisi." Leon Benouville

3 comments:

  1. I, too.

    (Additionally, the first Brothers and Sisters, while striving first for personal penance, were also radical socially, refusing to bear arms.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I haven't forgotten your cord....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Carol8:34 AM

    Everyone needs encouragement-- it's not optional; this is a seriously hard race we're running. Do some penance for me, too, but first console yourself a little; you still give more than you take, and I'm guessing far moreso (hidden from us) in person.

    ReplyDelete

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