Monday, October 04, 2004

Remembering Saint Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi, a lover of peace and nature, is one of my favorite Catholic saints. His famous prayer "Lord Make Me a Channel of Your Peace" is one of the prayers and hymns I learned in my childhood. During an overnight stay in Little Flower Convent in cool, pine-scented mountain city of Baguio, for a meeting with local peace advocates in July this year, I wrote the following senryu:

in the convent hallway
waiting, a guest
stares at St. Francis

Up to now, I still wonder (though I never bothered to ask) why Franciscan priests, in this twenty-first century, still dress exactly as St. Francis of the Middle Ages was dressed: in brown attire that, from a distance, looks like sackloth; and those sandals!

Anyway, there's this well-known story of St. Francis, when, in proving his love for God even to the point of losing everything he owns, took off his robe and stood naked before a crowd. A teacher from St. Francis College of Negros Oriental, one of the islands in the middle part of the Philippines, narrated to me that story...with a twist. According to him, St. Clare, a nun so close to St. Francis,was among the crowd who saw it all. And, seeing everything and all in their naked truth, she exclaimed:"Oh, my God! How biigggg! big is your faith!"

Oh,wow! would you believe it? Right after I wrote the word 'faith', I received this text message from a peace partner in Kalinga, a province up north, home of the indigenous peoples called Kalingas:

A little faith says: 'God may do it.'
A bigger faith says: 'God can do it.'
But a deep faith says: 'Whatever happens, God does what is best.'

What a coincidence-- or is it?


Blogger roh mih said...

Having read that senryu, i thought i should write a couple of short lines, thus transforming it into a tanka-like poem. So, here it is:

In the convent hallway
waiting, a guest
stares at St. Francis
and wonders why the flowers
are so few and small.

There. That fully captures the experience.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking from experience (as a former resident of the Benedictine Monastery of Mount Savior) the traditional monk's habit has remained unchanged for two main reasons: 1)Simplicity and 2)Humility.

I think that St. Francis of Assisi took things to extreme, and I believe that was because he came from a wealthy family. St. Francis wished to divest himself of ALL material things, and it is rumored that he wished even to wear nothing but a simple breechcloth, but saner minds prevailed (including the members of his own order), and a simple habit was adopted.

Your blogsite is pristine and lovely. (as usual)


By the way, the translation of that prayer, as said here in the States begins: "Lord, Make me an INSTRUMENT of your Peace..."

12:58 AM  
Blogger Stan said...

You must be psychic, Roh.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Christopher I said...

Each time I come in to your site, see it slowly materialize, absorb its layout, and read your pieces like the one on St Francis, I feel as if I have entered an oasis of peace and calm, where all is quiet, where the turbulent waters in my soul can become still.

I have put your site as a link on my site. I hope you don't mind.

3:44 PM  
Blogger mael brigde said...

! well, i certainly wasn't expecting the joke !

i'm glad that you were able to honour the memory of saint francis on his feast day. i wasn't anywhere near a computer at the time, but i did read an interesting essay about francis' approach to the eremetic tradition in thomas merton's book, Contemplation in a World of Action.

francis' concept of a hermit's retreat was not, as in other monastic traditions at the time, to retreat permanently from the world, but to remove oneself from it temporarily in order to deepen your connection with the spirit. (my word--he would have said God, but i think these days we don't hear all that that implies.)

what he set up in his retreat centers was a situation where three {or four?) brothers would live together--not what you normally think of as a hermit's retreat. two would be in silent prayer and contemplation, and the other would do the chores that supported their pursuit. the result being that at the same time they were strengthening their awareness both of God and themselves and of their intimate dependence on their brothers, too.

10:37 AM  

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