July 13, 2012

simpliciter orarem et dicerem

When I joined the Capuchins twelve years ago I went through a couple of immediate culture shocks related to things I missed. The first was cocktail time. In the twenty-eight and a half years I had been on this earth from the day of my birth until the day of my entrance into the Capuchin postulancy, I had never experienced a lifestyle arrangement that didn't presume a time for drinks before the evening meal. Much to my shock we processed most suddenly straight from Vespers to the dinner table. I was quite surprised and not a little thrown off. Now I'm all for the austerity which we Capuchins claim as our particular Franciscan heritage, but there's a fine line between that and abandoning the characteristic hallmarks of civilized men. I've never complained publicly about this issue, but perhaps the day will come when the right moment and forum will materialize.

The second thing was the little prayer of St. Francis which he describes in his Testament as the simplicity of his prayer after he began "to do penance" and have "such faith" in churches:

Adoramus te, Domine Jesu Christe et ad omnes ecclesias tuas, quae sunt in toto mundo, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam crucem tuam redimisti mundum.

In my first attempt at Franciscan life, as a postulant (we were called 'affiliates') and a novice in the OFM, province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (New York), we always used to say this prayer at the end of Morning and Evening Prayer:

We adore you, most holy Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all your churches throughout the world, and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

It's always been one of my favorite bits of St. Francis, and a daily reminder of his Testament, which has been dear to me over the years. There's the deep, mysterious and very biblical sense of blessing God, the centrality of the Cross in the Franciscan vision, all at once necessarily embedded in the ecclesial. We bless God and adore the Cross. Where and when? Right here, right now, in this particular place as well as in all the churches through the world in all of their own particularity.

I was bummed and a little surprised when I found that we didn't pray this prayer in the Capuchins in the same way I remembered from when I was in the OFM. So one of the little things for which I have been grateful here in the Assisi friary is that we pray it each day at the end of Evening Prayer:

Ti adoriamo, Signore Gesù Cristo, qui e in tutte le tue chiese che sono nel mondo intero e ti benediciamo, perché con la tua santa croce hai redento il mondo.



-Lou (Louis) said...

Thanks so much for that, Father!

I will add it to Lauds and Vespers (I think in Italian-I'm Italian-American and can speak Italian fairly well, even though I pray the LotH in English)


Tom said...

I love that prayer and want to commit it to memory. But can you instruct me a bit? I've seen other prayers where we bless God--how do we do that? I mean, what grace to we have that He needs? It seems, well, impossible for us to Bless God... Thanks for attempting to explain.

-Lou (Louis) said...


I understand this as not that we are blessing God, but that we can now be blessings God in the world because His Son has redeemed it and us.

Benediction (which is the original word in Italian and Latin) means an invocation of blessing, so you could read it as:

We adore you oh Christ and we invoke your blessings (including through us), etc


Barb, ofs said...

I remember learning part of that prayer when we did Stations of the Cross at my (OFM-HNP) grade school. A good one to remember, I think, when we see a church that doesn't measure up to our expectations. Because no matter what--it is a place where we worship God.

Br. Matt; OFM Cap. said...

I recall somewhere - perhaps in the old Manuale - that this prayer has traditionally been recited by Capuchins upon entering a church or the monastery chapel and was usually recited as the friar would kiss the floor before going to his seat in choir. I try to keep that custom myself as much as possible, although usually without kissing the floor (and if you've been to St. Joachim's you understand why...)