the wisdom of Francesco

“Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it
under foot and deny it.
Sanctity of life will be held in derision even by those who outwardly profess it,
for in those days JESUS CHRIST WILL SEND THEM NOT A TRUE PASTOR,
BUT A DESTROYER.”

Saint Francis to his followers upon his deathbed


(art work by Julie Cook / 2011)

I was offered a link yesterday to a rather obscure little book…
Works of the Seraphic Father St. Francis Of Assisi
which was published in London in 1882 by R. Washbourne

Long out of print, digital copies are the best way if one actually wants
to read the book.

The book is basically a collection of the writings and words offered by
Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
It is a collection of wisdom that was more or less written and spoken to those of
Francis’ order, the Franciscans, as well as to the sisters of The Poor Clares–
an order of likeminded women founded by Francis’ longtime friend Clare of Assisi.
They were more or less the female version of the Franciscans.

Toward the end of the book, there is a recounting of when Francis was on his deathbed.
Francis had called the Brother Minors
(those men who followed Francis and the Franciscan Order) to his side.

Francis had lived long enough to actually witness the splintering of his
own order as it spiraled out and away from the original intent of which Francis
had envisioned when he founded the order…

And so he spoke to his brothers with a Divine sense of what we today would call
speaking with a spirit of prophecy…
he was foretelling a time of great crisis in the Chruch.

During Francis’ lifetime, the Chruch was the Catholic Chruch,
but today, when I hear the word Chruch, I actually consider that to be the entire
the Chruch of the collective Christian community, the bride of Christ, the universal Chruch.

I also believe Francis’ words transcend that of both space and time as they
speak deeply to us today…

Those who preserve in their fervor and adhere to virtue with love and zeal for the truth,
will suffer injuries and, persecutions as rebels and schismatics;
for their persecutors, urged on by the evil spirits,
will say they are rendering a great service to God by destroying such pestilent men
from the face of the earth.

But the Lord will be the refuge of the afflicted,
and will save all who trust in Him.

And in order to be like their Head,[Christ] these, the elect,
will act with confidence, and by their death will purchase for themselves eternal life;
choosing to obey God rather than man, they will fear nothing,
and they will prefer to perish rather than consent to falsehood and perfidy.

Crystal ball gazing

“If it is hard to make predictions about what the year ahead holds for society,
it is doubly difficult to predict what will happen to the Church.
It’s not just that we suffer the vagaries of all human sinners and societies,
but the Holy Spirit will not be restricted to our timetables and limited visions.
Imagine being a disciple of Jesus after the crucifixion and before the
day of Pentecost – who could have foreseen what would happen?”

David Robertson


(Wizard of Oz / 1939)

Oh hear the wistful sighs…..

Ode that we could somehow take a peak, a gander or even predict….the future…
Ours, others, the world’s….
All whilst gazing into our very own all seeing and all knowing crystal balls.

We humans, particularly as we have advanced in areas of all things scientific,
communication and technological, have grown, over the past couple of centuries,
increasingly frustrated when we can’t see how it’s all going to go, going to be,
or going to end…

And despite saying we aren’t ones to sneak a peak at how the book or the
story will end, deep down, we all really want to know…

Perhaps it is the odd peace in knowing… or perhaps more aptly,
it is a peace in accepting, that which is to be….
For the lack of not knowing eats away at us more than the actual knowing.

We want that total knowledge and peace that everyone is going to
live happily ever after…
And if that’s not to be the case..then by George, we will do something about it…
because that who we are and how we operate, we do something about it, or we
get those who can do, to do…..

We prefer to leave nothing to chance because if we ‘know’ we can therefore control;
and if we can control, we can therefore orchestrate; if we can orchestrate,
we can therefore be in charge…

Becoming the masters of our own ships, our own destinies and our own souls!
In essence becoming our our demigod.

In the mid 19th century in Victorian England there was a huge rise in public
interest in occultism and spiritualism…
but not exactly for that of Christian spiritualism.

In his article The Victorian Supernatural, Roger Luckhurst notes that
the 19th century is routinely thought about as the era of secularisation,
a period when the disciplines and institutions of modern science were founded
and cultural authority shifted from traditional authority of religion to
explanation through the scientific exposition of natural laws.
The sociologist Max Weber spoke about this process as the disenchantment
of the world.

Yet he goes on to note that “while we might still accept the broad brush strokes of this story, the Victorian period is also of course a period of deep
and sustained religious revival.
There was an evangelical revival in the Christian church but also a host
of dissenting, heterodox and millenarian cults.
It was a golden age of belief in supernatural forces and energies,
ghost stories, weird transmissions and spooky phenomena.
For a long time historians ignored these beliefs as embarrassing errors or
eccentricities, signs of the perturbations produced by the speed of cultural change.

Roger Luckhurst who is Professor of Modern Literature at Birkbeck College,
University of London goes on to note, that in the turbulent,
revolutionary year of 1848, a new religious movement emerged from the melting pot
of upstate New York.
The young Fox sisters had claimed to have come into contact with the
unquiet spirit of a murdered man in their house,
who communicated with them by loud knocks on wood.
This very local sensation (later shown to be a fraud)
was the origin point for the Spiritualist movement,
which elaborated a method of communicating with the dead in séances through mediums. Mediums were often women because they were deemed to have more delicate,
sensitive nervous systems than men.

Men who were mediums – such as the famous D D Home who so enraged Robert Browning
that he was the source for his poem ‘Mr Sludge’ –
were often abjected and despised.

Although communication with spirits was strictly forbidden in the Bible,
this became a popular form of dissenting belief, a ‘proof’ of the survival
of bodily death in an era that demanded empirical testing and experiment.
The spirits would exchange banal but comforting messages with loved ones;
some would elaborate extensively on the social and political institutions
of the afterlife, called Summerland by some.

So as we consider the thoughts of one historian’s observation,
or better yet his little explanation into this lasting fascination of humankind
with its endless quest of being able to reach the other side, see beyond today,
desiring to know how the ending will be…there remains that single notion—
the “demanded of empirical testing and experiment….
i.e.the knowledge of the truth.

But what truth is that?

As we are reminded of a similar resigned and rhetorical
question, uttered nearly two millennium ago by a weary Pontius Pilate
“What is truth”
….as man is still hounded by that very query, despite having been offered
the most sound statement of Truth itself that very day….

And so our friend the Scottish Pastor and Wee Flea blogger gives his own
take of what 2018 might just be holding in store for those who are curious
or perhaps even worried about such.

Yet we must note that Pastor Robertson’s “predictions” are not those based on
Mediums and Occultism nor of séances, Ouija boards or even crystal balls….
but rather his thinking is based of keen observation, historical observations,
insight into the human psyche as well as a heavy dose of Biblical study
and of course always prayer…..

For an article in Christian Today, the good Pastor offered his
“10 prophesies for the Church in 2018

(see link: https://theweeflea.com/2018/01/02/10-prophecies-for-the-church-in-2018/)

And it is with keen interest that I pay particular attention to number three
as it addresses life on this side of the pond….

3.The American church will continue to fracture and decline as the word
‘evangelical’ becomes even more meaningless.

The American church is rich and powerful and has need of everything.
Whilst J I Packers’ quip that the US church is
‘3,000 miles wide and one inch deep’ may have been unfair,
it is nonetheless the case that whilst there are vast resources in the US church
(people, money, gifts) there is a danger it could implode.

This is especially true in the evangelical church where the word
evangelical has become increasingly meaningless.

‘White evangelicals’ who don’t go to church and don’t believe
(according to one survey) 60% of the basic Christian doctrines can hardly be called evangelical. And yet everyone wants to be called an evangelical
(or ‘post evangelical’ if you want to be cool).

On the other hand the heirs of 19th Century Protestant liberalism are 21st
Century liberals like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Steve Chalke,
who use the language of evangelicalism but give it a completely different meaning.
Such a church cannot survive. And does not deserve to survive.

As this thought reminds me of the words by Bishop Gavin Ashenden,
“our secular culture is attracting many believers…..”

And whereas none of us actually have a true working crystal ball,
allowing us to see into let alone accurately predict what may come…
And whether we agree or not or even like to consider such ominous words
of a murky future…there does remain,
as the good Wee Flea reminds the Faithful, always hope.

Because that is but one thing that remains forever unchanged…..
the Truth of God and His Word.

He was, He is and He will always be—

And it is in that simple fact, that we may rest—

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God,
mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.

Deuteronomy 10:17

What do the wise among us see

“Saruman rose to his feet, and stared at Frodo. There was a strange look in his eyes of mingled wonder and respect and hatred. ‘You have grown, Halfling,’ he said. ‘Yes, you have grown very much. You are wise, and cruel. you have robbed my revenge of sweetness, and now I must go hence in bitterness, in debt to your mercy. I hate it and you! Well, I go and I will trouble you no more. But do not expect me to wish you health and long life. You will have neither. But that is not my doing. I merely foretell.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

DSCN0539
(a curious jackdaw watches from the crumbling walls at The Rock of Cahsel, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

What of those wise men…
those sages of days long past…
those perceptive foreign kings who would travel from far far away in search of the sacred, the mysterious, the Divine?

What of those enlightened seers who once possessed a depth of wisdom not afforded to the masses of their time…
Of those scholarly patricians, scientists and astronomers of yore, those who studied both the heavens and the stars hoping to see, to foretell, and to discern those dire or joyful events which were to befall mankind…

I wonder what their thoughts, predictions, and discernments would be for our day and of our time…would they travel day and night all those many miles wandering only hoping to pay homage or rather would they hasten to warn those willing few brave enough to heed their divinations?

Would their concern be of the escalating global warming as they measured various viscous liquids watching the rise and fall of floating objects within a myriad of glass vessels?
Would they gather dirt and seed while measuring the falling rains?
Would the increasing number of tumultuous storms, floods, fires and earthquakes give way to a heightened need of understanding fueling their global quest?
Would their concern be of the climate shift and of the rising ocean temperatures?
What of the mysterious “die offs” of massive numbers of fish, antelopes, star fish, birds…
What would these learned men who sought to understand the balance between health and living make of these new pandemics, epidemics, plagues and unexplained global sicknesses?
What of the melting icecaps, would they even be aware of opposing earthly poles encased in ice and snow?

Would they unroll their brittle parchments and calfskin scrolls plotting and planning while measuring the charted maps of both known land, sea and heavens?
Would their vision be cast upward during a nighttime sky as they pondered the oddity of 4 successive large reddish moons which each oddly took place during a holy day or festival of the Hebrew people?

DSCN1049
(the half moon in the Killarney night sky / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook )

Would they read the words of ancient prophets and prophesies wondering if there were connections and correlations or would they simply pass it all away as coincidence.
Would they yield to the ancient scriptural warnings of things long foretold or would they consider the ancient tomes written by those delusional and crazed?

What of the star, that lone bright and brilliant star which had beckoned them years prior to that tiny Jewish village on the periphery of the expansive Roman Empire…
What of the ancient texts and the cross references of the both sacred and secular…were they but mere conjecture?

What other celestial and earthly signposts and events must appear before the wise and the average both understand?

DSCN1048
(moonlight over Killarney, Ireland / Sept 2015 / Julie Cook

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:6-14