An Enlivening Art

Part 5



Throughout His life on earth, Jesus showed how truly He was the Son of the God of all steadfastness and encouragement. It was not enough for our Lord simply to be courageous (though He was assuredly that). He was constantly giving those around Him the great gift of ENCOURAGEMENT. Whether it was sinners seeking pardon, the sick asking for healing or mothers wanting His blessing for their children, Jesus offered the loving, welcoming, merciful face of ENCOURAGEMENT. To the searching he said: Come! To the fearful: Be not afraid! To the hesitant: Ask! Seek! Knock! Even to the repentant thief dying with Him on Calvary. our Lord offered that word of supreme ENCOURAGEMENT: Today YOU will be with Me in Paradise.

The Levite Joseph from Cyprus was a post-Pentecost disciple who learned so well this divine art of ENCOURAGEMENT that the Apostles surnamed him "Bamabas," which means "Son of encouragement." Whether taking the fiery convert Paul under his wing, supporting his trepidatious cousin Mark or exhorting the new Christians in Antioch, St. Barnabas was ever on the lookout for ways to put fresh heart into those around him. And, in doing so, he enriched the Church, rejoiced the faithful and opened hearts to the faith, grace and goodness which filled his own heart and life.

Thirteen Christian centuries later, we find St. Francis of Assisi excelling in the same art of ENCOURAGEMENT. Immersed as he was in the Word of God, Francis "caught" from the Lord Jesus the same loving, welcoming, merciful spirit which made him an open channel of ENCOURAGEMENT to all who crossed his life's path. Francis likewise learned from St. Barnabas highly practical ways to pass on ENCOURAGEMENT to those who crossed his path.

When St. Clare and her community were weighed down with fatigue from caring for their sick Sisters, the Seraphic Father had a bright word of ENCOURAGEMENT set to song for them:
Bear it in peace... for you shall all be crowned as queens in heaven with the Virgin Mary. To a friar beset with interior trials, the Little Poor Man offered the good word of ENCOURAGEMENT through the open door of welcome: If you need and want to come to me for the sake of your soul or for some consolation, come.  Robbers and clerics, princes and paupers, popes and sultans all discovered that the Poor Man of Assisi was a true "son of encouragement" who desired to help and support them on their journey to God.

ENCOURAGEMENT is one of the "personal touch" virtues. It requires looking out and away from ourselves and noticing the needs of others — their fatigue. their concerns. their weakness, and their discouragement. It can be given in so many simple, humble ways — a smile, a word of thanks, a gesture of appreciation, a kind look, an extra minute of listening. ENCOURAGEMENT is a virtue of solidarity, an assurance to others that they are not alone in their labors, their strivings, and their sufferings.

When we set out to practice the enlivening art of ENCOURAGEMENT, we happily discover the little and large ways that other people are encouraging us as we journey through life. And, we discover how God Himself is always offering us ENCOURAGEMENT, enlivening our faith, kindling our love and inviting us to persevere on the Gospel way of hope and holiness.



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