Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Christ, the Poor, the Suffering, and Despised. 

A short but formidable Lenten meditation on the "sweet gifts of God" - poverty suffering and contempt - by Saint Angela of Foligno. “For these three things were with Him in all places, at all times, and in all His deeds, and likewise with His mother, that is to say, they did bear the utmost poverty, suffering, and contempt.”


THESE are the sweet gifts of God, and whosoever does fully obtain them may know himself to be perfected and consummated in the most sweet God, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to be perfected in him through transformation. And the more perfect man is in these things, the more wholly will he be transformed in Jesus Christ.

The first is the love of poverty, whereby the soul puts away from itself the love of every creature; for it desires not the possession of any save of the Lord Jesus Christ, it trusts not in the help of any creature whatsoever in this life; and thus does love of Him not only reign alone in the heart, but is also shown forth in the works.

The second is the desire to be despised, scorned, and hated of every creature, and the wish that every creature should esteem the soul worthy of disgrace, so that none should have compassion on it. It should desire likewise to be cherished in the heart of none save of God alone, and by Him alone to be held in good repute.


The third is the desire to feel all the sufferings, burdens, and griefs borne by the heart and body of the most sweet Jesus Christ and His tender mother, and that all creatures should inflict upon the soul those same unending woes. And if it feels not able to desire these three things, it may know itself to be very far removed from the likeness of Christ. For these three things were with Him in all places, at all times, and in all His deeds, and likewise with His mother, that is to say, they did bear the utmost poverty, suffering, and contempt.

The fourth is that each person should deem himself unworthy of so much good; that he should know that he could never have these things of his own self; and the more abundantly he has them, the more must he deem himself to lack them, for whoso thinks to possess the thing beloved does thereby lose the Beloved Himself. Wherefore must we never deem ourselves to have attained unto it, but must ever consider that we are beginning anew, that we have as yet achieved nothing and have obtained none of these things.

The fifth is, that the soul should strive constantly to reflect how these things were always in the Lord Jesus Christ, ever imploring God with fervent prayers that He would clothe its heart anew and give it these companions, and asking naught else; that it should find all its joy in this life in the perfect transformation of all these things and strive ever to rise unto the thought of how the heart of the most sweet Jesus was full thereof, yea, running over and infinitely more full than He did show forth in His body.


The sixth is, that it must flee as though from a pestilence from all who hinder it from attaining unto these things, whether it be a carnal or spiritual person, and all the things of this world which it holds to be unlike or contrary unto that good thing must it hold in horror and flee from them as from a serpent.

The seventh is, that it pronounce no judgment upon any other creature whatsoever, nor seek to judge others, as saith the Gospel, it must esteem itself more vile than all others (howsoever evil they may be), and unworthy of the grace of God. It must know, moreover, that whosoever strives to possess these three things in this present life and mortal struggle will possess God in fullness here after.

Thus is the soul wholly united with God by transformation. God doth give us of His transformation in this life in order that we may share His humility, poverty, and pain. For the soul should desire no other consolations in this life, not even spiritual ones, save perchance for the healing of its infirmity. But it should desire only the perfect crucifixion of Christ, the Poor, the Suffering, and Despised.

Taken from Chapter 38 of The Book of Divine Consolation, by St. Angela of Foligno.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Total Lenten Fast of St. Francis for 40 Days

The Total Lenten Fast of St. Francis for 40 Days; made by the saint in 1211 AD on the isolated island of Isola Maggiore in Lake Trasimene in Central Italy not far from Assisi.

From The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions:

Because Francis, that very real servant of Christ, was in some things another Christ given to the world, God the Father made this fortunate man conformed in many things to Christ, His Son, as was apparent in his venerable band of holy companions, in the wonderful mystery of the stigmata of the Cross, and the holy fast of forty continuous days.

At one time when Francis was near the Lake of Perugia, he was at Mardi Gras a guest of a man devoted to him. He asked his host to take him for the love of God to an island on the lake where no one lived and to do so during the night before Ash Wednesday so that no one would know about it. The host did this very eagerly because of the great devotion he had for Francis. He prepared his little boat at night and transported him on Ash Wednesday to the island. Saint Francis brought nothing for food except two small loaves of bread.

After he reached the island he asked his ferryman to tell no one and to come back for him on Holy Thursday. Since there was no shelter there where he could rest, he crawled into a dense thicket where thorn bushes had formed an enclosure, and he stayed there immobile for the whole forty days, neither eating nor drinking. 

His host came looking for him, as they had agreed, on Holy Thursday and he found that, except for part of one, the two little loaves of bread had not been touched. It is believed that Saint Francis ate part of one loaf so that with a little bread he would expel the poison of vainglory, and thus the glory of a forty day fast be reserved for the blessed Christ. Yet he did fast forty days and forty nights after the example of Christ.

In that place where Saint Francis did such remarkable penance, many miracles were performed through his merits. Therefore, people began to build and live on this island, and in a short period of time a large village and a house for the brothers were established there. The people of this village still show great reverence for that place where Saint Francis kept the Lenten Fast.

The Deeds of Blessed Francis and His Companions, by Ugolino Boniscambi, circa 1328 AD was original version of The Little Flowers of St. Francis.

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Thursday, February 11, 2021

Saint Angela of Foligno on Prayer.

Saint Angela explains how important it is to concentrate on what you are doing.

  • If He who was actually God would accept nothing without having prayed and asked for it, how darest you, miserable creature, hope to receive without supplication and prayer?

  • All who desire to receive the Holy Spirit must pray; for on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended not upon the disciples save when they were at prayer.

  • The eternal kingdom may verily be bought with a moment of time.

WHEN we pray we must keep our whole hearts fixed thereon, for if our hearts be divided we lose the fruit of true prayer. In all other exercises that we perform, such as eating and drinking and other actions, it is not needful that we should be so single-minded, nor that we should perform them with our whole hearts and bodies. But these things do we only perform outwardly, whereas we must give our hearts wholly unto God if we desire to profit by the fruits of true prayer and not to lose them utterly. The reason wherefore we are tempted during prayer is because our hearts are not wholly given unto God.

Pray, therefore, and pray often, because the more often you pray the more will you be enlightened and the more deeply and clearly and nobly will you perceive the supreme Good, and that which is supremely good, and the more deeply and excellently you perceive it the more will you love it, and the more you love it the more will you delight in it and be able to comprehend it. Then will you attain unto the fullness of light, and will you know that which heretofore you could not know.

Pray, if you desire faith; pray if you desire hope; pray if you desire charity, or poverty, or obedience, or chastity; pray if you desire any virtue whatsoever.

Poverty, Suffering, and Contempt.

The way in which you must pray is this: you must read the Book of the Life of Christ Jesus, which life was poverty, suffering, contempt, and true obedience. When you shall be fully entered into this life and shall have profited thereby, you will be afflicted by many tribulations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In many divers ways will they molest you and horribly persecute you, and if you will overcome you must pray.

Watch and pray, therefore, that you give no advantage unto the adversaries who continually surround you; for when you cease to pray, you give place unto the enemy. Therefore, the more you are tempted the more must you persevere in prayer. Sometimes, however, prayer is the cause of your being tempted, as when demons do endeavor to hinder it. But take no heed of aught save of prayer, so that you may always be worthy of being freed from temptation. For through prayer are you enlightened, through prayer are you set free from temptation, through prayer are you cleansed, and through prayer are you united with God. Prayer is nothing else save the manifestation of God and of oneself, and this manifestation is perfect and true humiliation, for humility consists in the soul, beholding God and itself as it should. Then is the soul in a state of deep humility, and the deeper the humility the greater is the divine grace which springs therefrom and increases there.

The more the divine grace humbles the soul, the more quickly does this same grace increase and spring afresh out of the depths of that humility. And the more the grace increases the more deeply does the soul abase itself in true humility through the continuance of true prayer. Thus do grace and light divine grow ever within the soul, and the soul is ever prostrate in true humility, duly reading and meditating upon this Life of Christ.

 Man’s Perfection.

Man's perfection consists in knowing the greatness of God and his own nothingness. And how he attains unto this through gazing upon that Book of Life has already been said. Therefore, oh my son, cast away from you all slothfulness and negligence. I certainly desire you, and do exhort you, that you watch and pray no less and do no fewer good works when you are deprived of the grace and fervor of devotion than in times when you obtained that grace of devotion. Verily it is pleasing unto God if, in the fervor of grace, you continue to pray and watch, labor and perform other good works. Wherefore, if the divine fervor and ardor does sometimes constrain you to watch, pray, and offer praise, do it with all thy might while the fire burns within you.

When it so happens that God deprives you of warmth and fervor (whether because of your own fault, as is most often the case, or whether for the augmenting and strengthening of grace in you), you must nevertheless watch, pray, and do good works as heretofore. And if temptation or tribulation (whereby the children of God are purged and punished) should fall upon you and grace and fervor be withheld, do you endeavor none the less to perform the aforesaid good works and strive that you may overcome. Keep thyself in subjection by constant prayers, vigils, tears, and importunities, so that God in His mercy will at last give you back your warmth and fervor. Do your part, for God will assuredly do His.

Constant, ready, and insistent prayer.

Constant, ready and insistent prayer is very acceptable unto God. Therefore do you persevere in prayer, and concern not thyself with other occupations immediately when you begin to feel more than commonly filled with God. And see that you give not thyself unto any occupation or thought before you have learned to separate thyself from all others. Take heed likewise unto thy fervor and thy spirit, which rush forward eagerly before you can follow it. Inquire and see the beginning, middle, and end of the road it would take, and you should follow it only so far as it keeps unto the way of the Book of Life. And take heed of those who say they have the spirit of liberty, but do openly oppose the Book of the Life of Christ, the which is written according to the law, He being the founder of the law, who lives for ever and ever. Amen.

Taken from chapters 21,22,23 of The Book of Divine Consolation, by St. Angela of Foligno.

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