May 18, 2013


For us Capuchins, today is the feast our first confrere to be canonized, St. Felix of Cantalice. Having served here in Rome, and with his relics venerated here to this day, he is also an optional memorial for the diocese.

Saying my prayers this morning, I was, however, a little troubled. For the second reading in the Office of Readings, we are given a chunk of chapter 17 of the Earlier Rule, which is basically St. Francis's sense of the interior attitudes of the Friar Minor-preacher (and, perhaps, more generally, a spirituality of Franciscan ministry).

From the Italian Roman-Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours:
Prego in 'carità, che è Dio,' tutti i miei frati predicatori, oratori e lavoratori, tanto chierici che religiosi fratelli, perché cerchino di umiliarsi in tutte le cose, di non gloriarsi e di non compiacersi nell'intimo e di non esaltarsi al di fuori per le buone parole ed opere, anzi per nessun bene che Dio dice o fa ed opera in essi e per essi...
Praying through that passage, I stopped. There's a word missing. My favorite word. The aliquando in Francis's Latin.

Here's the passage in English, from Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, Vol. 1:
In the love that is God, therefore, I beg all my brothers--those who preach, pray or work, cleric or lay--to strive to humble themselves in everything, not to boast or delight in themselves or inwardly exalt themselves because of the good words and deeds or, for that matter, because of any good that God sometimes says or does or works in and through them...
Sometimes. Aliquando. The good that God sometimes says or does or works through them. I was relieved when I checked the official-looking Italian Franciscan sources that my predecessor kindly left here in my room (Editrici Francescane, 2004) and found my 'sometimes.'
Per cui scongiuro, nella carità che è Dio, tutti i miei frati occupati nella predicazione, nell’orazione, nel lavoro, sia chierici che laici, che cerchino di umiliarsi in tutte le cose, di non gloriarsi, né godere tra sé, né esaltarsi dentro di sé delle buone parole e delle opere, anzi di nessun bene che Dio fa o dice e opera talvolta in loro e per mezzo di loro...
Talvolta. Sometimes.

In serving the glory of God, it's a standard thing to say that humility demands we refer all good words and works to the inspiration and action of God; it is the Holy Spirit who conceives the presence of Christ in the world that he may heal and reconcile, suffer, die, blazing for our humanity a trail--out of the misery we insist upon for ourselves and each other with our sin--to the life of the new creation, all to the glory of God the Father. It is this dynamic, which is God himself, that acts in all our preaching and ministry to the extent that it is genuine and of God. To confess this and refer it all to God is a standard demand of Christian humility.

But for Francis this isn't enough. We can't just piously refer the good we do to the inspiration and action of God. We must talk about the good we sometimes do. We must confess that it is only sometimes that we find ourselves humble enough for the surrender that allows the overflowing love that is the Blessed Trinity to shine through us in a way that gives him glory with anything that could be called clarity. But for that sometimes, for that little bit, we give all the thanks anybody could, because the littlest bit of God's action and presence is much more than we even know we desire.

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