St. Francis and the Bishops

In my last post, I promised to take a long (perhaps permanent) hiatus from Church politics.  Then I came across this passage in Blessed Are You by Mother Mary Francis. 

Blessed Are You is a collection of meditations on the Beatitudes. A new edition was just released by Sophia Institute Press.  Here’s Mother on the seventh Beatitude: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

[St. Francis of Assisi] had his own problems with the “institutional Church,” but he had very different ways of solving them than some others.  There he was with his God-given mission; yet he forbade his brothers to speak in any diocese without the bishop’s permission.  There is scarcely a man in all of history more manifestly Spirit-led, but we do not find Francis overriding the hierarchy with loud cries of being led by the Spirit.  He definitely did not say: “Listen here, I have this message straight from God.  Down with dissenting bishops, down with institutions, down with the establishment.” 

St. Francis was able to cope with the glaring defects of the ecclesial establishment of his times and go on busying himself, not with demolishing that establishment but with making peace in it, which is a decidedly more difficult thing to do.  What price dynamite?  Or the flagellation of the press?

And, returning to the hierarchy, Francis had with bishops, as with the acquisition of stones, his own way of going about things.  When front doors were closed on his intense little face, he hurried around to the back.  And, in the end, he got in.  He somehow always ended up in that bishop’s cathedral, up in the pulpit.

For those who don’t know Mother Mary Francis, her earliest admirer was one Hilaire Belloc, who so enjoyed her first book that he sent his daughter to the U.S. to meet her as his emissary.

Mother was eventually elected head of the Colettine (reformed) Poor Clares.  She was a passionate advocate for preserving the traditions of religious life after Vatican II; thanks to her leadership, the Colettines still wear the old habit of the Third Order of St. Francis.

I can’t recommend Blessed Are You highly enough.  Mother Mary Francis is one of my favorite modern spiritual writer.  She is—if, for whatever reason, you care about these things—a woman who ranks alongside Chesterton or Lewis in brilliance, warmth, and wit.  And I think her advice, especially on dealing with the “institutional Church” is thoroughly sound.

Anyway, that’s my last word. No more Vatican-watching or chancery gossip for me. No, sir. Not a bit.

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