The Catechetical Saints

         Part 2

 

The 1994 release of the English translation of the CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH engendered a range of reactions as diverse as those who reacted. However, we need neither deep speculation nor great scholarship to tell us what the response of those two catholic and totally apostolic saints, Francis and Clare of Assisi, would have been to this gift of the Church. They who began and ended their Gospel-based Rules with an affirmation of obedience and loyalty to the Holy Father and to the Church would, in our day, be the first to purchase, the first to ponder and the last to criticize this great compendium of faith and truth. The following reflections are intended to help all of their twenty-first century followers to approach Godís teaching set forth in the CATECHISM with gratitude and openness, fidelity and prayer.

When the Church celebrates the mystery of Christ,
there is a word which marks her prayer:
TODAY!

(CATECHISM #1165)

There is no doubt that St. Francis and St. Clare were TODAY! saints. The early sources liken their spiritual pilgrimage to a race, well-run and won. Perhaps that is why, with their eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, our Guide and our Goal, they entered so joyfully into

the solemn forty days of Lent (during which) the Church unites herself
each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.
(#540)

These happy penitents understood, as few have, that the Churchís prescribed days of fasting and abstinence ensure times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart. (#2043)

Few can look at Francis, fiddling with two sticks and singing of the love of God, wandering through the woods weeping that LOVE IS NOT LOVED! and not recognize a heart made free by penance and asceticism. We need only read the testimonies of the Sisters who lived with St. Clare to be assured that a life spent in penance for the sins of the world produced a woman radiating joy and peace to all who knew her. They understood that a free heart is a giving heart, one that rejoices to offer the Lord its sacrifice of love and praise. The saints of Assisi would be the first to endorse the Churchís designation of Lent as a

time particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises,
penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as a sign of penance,
voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving,
and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works.)
(#1438)

In the forty TODAYS! of Lent, let us look to St. Francis and St. Clare, experts in the art of joyful, Christ-centered penance. Let us see with the eyes of faith that the purpose of self-denial is to turn us more fully to God, the source of all forgiveness and love. Let us learn from them the secret of the happy penitent who knows that

Taking up oneís Cross each day and following Jesus
is the surest way of penance.
(#1435)

 

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