Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wisdom of the Poor One of Assisi

This novel, by Eloi Leclerc, is so far (only about half-way through) a truly beautiful book! Here is an excerpt -- a fictional conversation that takes place between Brother Rufino and St. Francis:

"This experience through which I have just lived has taught me how easy it is to be deluded about oneself," said Rufino. "How easy it is to mistake an impulse of nature for an inspiration of the Lord -- and without shame!"

"Yes, self-delusion is all too easy," said Francis. "That is why it is so common. Nevertheless, there is a sign which permits us to identify it with assurance."

"What is that?" inquired Rufino.

"It is the turmoil of the soul," answered Francis. "When water becomes turbid, it is evident that it is not pure. The same holds for people. Individuals who are suffused by anxiety show that the source of inspiration for their actions is not pure; it is contaminated. Such persons are deeply moved by things other than the spirit of the Lord...It is so easy for them to raise their vices to the height of virtues and to delude themselves under the guise of noble and selfless goals. And all the while, totally unaware! However, when occasions arise and those who have deceived themselves are contradicted or opposed, their masks fall off. They are flustered and irritated. Behind the 'spiritual' facade appears their 'carnal' nature still very much alive, with claws bared for self-defense. This turmoil and this aggressiveness reveal that such persons are guided by deep motives other than those of the Lord."

The hermitage bell tolled; it was time to say the Office. Francis and Rufino arose and made their way toward the oratory. They went tranquilly, as do free people.

Suddenly Francis seized Rufino's arm and stopped him. "listen, Brother; I must tell you something."

He paused an instant, gazing down at the ground. He seemed to hesitate. Then looking Rufino directly in the eye, he said to him gravely, "With the aid of the Lord, you have overcome your desire for power and prestige. But you will have to do it not just once, but ten, twenty, a hundred times."

"You frighten me, Father," said Rufino. "I am not cut out to withstand such a struggle."

"It is not in struggling you succeed," replied Francis gently, "But in adoring. The person who adores God knows that there is only one All-Powerful One. Such a person acknowledges it and accepts it deeply, heartily, and rejoices that God is God. God is. That is enough and that makes a person free. Do you understand? ... If we knew how to adore, then nothing could truly disturb our peace. We would travel through the world with the tranquility of the great rivers" (pp. 71-72)

This passage calls to mind, or vibrates with Father Giussani's discussion of discontinuity in Is It Possible to Live This Way? Volume 2 Hope:

The enemies of this faithfulness in belonging, the most notable enemies, are first, discontinuity -- in psychology, this neurosis is called cyclothymia: one day up, one day down, in the evening up, in the morning down... discontinuity is more a variation in mood; one time he has his nose in the air and the next time he laughs immoderately; and you don't know how to take him; you see that he laughs and you laugh too, but then ... so the discontinuity. And then, the toil and the pain (page 35) ...

Discontinuity is one time in the dust, one time on the altar; like a cyclothymic, one time he laughs and two minutes after he cries. It is the non-linearity in maintaining the right frame of mind (page 68) ...

Discontinuity is an error, it's a weakness of character (page 69) ...

Patience [...] is a humble certainty of the strength of Another. "I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me," said St. Paul. This sentence removes whatever pretext we can have against the path and it removes whatever pretext of desolation or of discouragement in front of whatever error. Therefore it saves the path and saves one from errors.

All of our effort is to bring ourselves to perceive the original simplicity of the relationship between God and man. When Christ looked at Magdalene with a furtive glance on the street, it was a simple thing: it was a call to her with simplicity and a simplicty in which purity dominated and re-dominated; contrary to her history, but not contrary to her present possibility (page 84).

The last two paragraphs contain what I can identify as the answer to the problem of discontinuity. I think they represent a restatement of what St. Francis told Rufino in The Wisdom of the Poor One of Assisi by Eloi Leclerc. What is needed is first to allow oneself to be penetrated by this furtive glance. The next step is to adore. God is. This suffices.

5 comments:

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

"It is not in struggling you succeed...But in adoring".

Thank you for this clarification. These few words say so much.

Suzanne said...

Thanks, Scott. It has certainly been true in my own life.

Fred said...

But you will have to do it not just once, but ten, twenty, a hundred times.

Sara said...

I needed this. Thank you!

Suzanne said...

You're welcome, Sara

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."