THOUGHTS ON THE CATHOLIC FAITH NO 6.
(Fr. J. O’Neill P.P., S.T.B)
Visitors to Italy love to go to Florence to see the art. If there was an exhibition of, say, Raphael’s work, his admirers would walk about in a trance, gazing gratefully at the masterpieces. They would wish the artist could come back to life so they could meet him.
Saint Francis of Assisi might come across as a dreamer, searching for his great lady to fight for (finally his ‘Lady Poverty’), composing poems and songs for his young set in Assisi, and later, preaching to birds and fish. Let there be no misunderstanding - he was no dreamer: Francis might be the greatest realist in history. Why? Because the world was God’s art gallery, the Exhibition of the Creator’s Art, whose Artist was still alive, and whose art was not a lifeless thing on canvas, but a wondrous collection of masterpieces alive with the Divine Artist’s presence. Francis knew it.
Francis had the key to huge joy: faith! He lived in vivid awareness of the presence of God to such an extent that he had his ‘personal resurrection’ of Christ on Mount Alverna, when the Saviour took him to Himself so intimately that He left the Poverello with His own wounds.
Francis should be the rule, not the exception: we all live in the same world that he saw as full of wonders, and so experienced its Maker. The rest of us miss the real ‘fun’ of life because we try to make our own joy. We are like awkward infants scrawling our quaint drawings and thinking we are Raphael. We do not go into galleries to paint, but to enjoy the masters: so with life.
Here we are among the living wonders of the world, sustained as we look at it by the very presence of its Maker, and yet rarely think of Him. Could we walk through that exhibition in Florence without thinking of Raphael? So what is wrong with us? Not enough faith. Why? Not enough prayer. Why? Not enough awareness of our Father. Why? Too much satisfaction with passing things. Why? Not enough suffering to dislodge us from the lie that says comfort brings joy.
Francis’ highest joy was on that mountain when he received Jesus’ wounds: and they brought His pain with them. Francis had been in an ecstasy of Divine awareness, but it reached its highest only through suffering, as Jesus’ height of joy was when He watched His love, from His awful cross, tear down the walls of evil.
There simply is no road into Christ without suffering for Him. No other way exists. Faith shows us Christ: great faith shows Him vividly; and pain is the one-way and only street that leads directly to His embrace. And that is where joy is.
We are all so anxious to restore the Church - to what? To the way Christ Christ wants it. Can we know that? Yes - because of the Magisterium, the Church’s Christ-given teaching authority.
How to restore it? By the presence of saints. The joy of saints will bring the wanderers home. The road home is the one that made the saints: through faith and pain, Christ’s road, the road of joy. Any volunteers?
Permission is granted to reproduce this article for religious education purposes in schools, home schools etc. and for the promotion of the Catholic faith.
Father John O'Neill
17 Cameron Street, Doonside NSW 2767 Australia
Ph: +61 (2) 9622 3426
Fax: +61 (2) 9622 3376