Everyone who has left all things and followed me will be repaid a hundred times over and inherit eternal life; How happy are you poor; yours is the kingdom of God.
Mt. 19:29; Lk 6:20
A reading from Saint Bonaventure
The Defence of the Mendicants Chap. III, nn. 8-10
Let us not set our minds on high things, but condescend to the lowly
When our Saviour said ﬁrst: “Blessed are; the poor in Spirit”, he suggested perfect renunciation of temporal possessions; when he continued: “Blessed are the meek”, he counselled denial of self-will and of that desire for personal gratiﬁcation by which a man is made harsh and violent. When he said, thirdly: “Blessed are they who mourn”, he proposed the perfect avoidance of the delights of the ﬂesh. When he continued: “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for Justice” and “Blessed are the merciful”, he called for a just, kind, and loving attitude towards neighbours. When he added after this” Blessed are the clean of heart” and “Blessed are the peacemakers”, he attracted men towards a limpid elevation of the intelligence, and a tranquil and peaceful lifting up of the heart, by which the souls of the just are made to conform to Jerusalem, which is interpreted as “a vision of peace”. Finally, when he concluded: “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”, he returned to the origin, as if completing a circle; for it is in this persecution for justice’ sake that the sum of all things is accomplished.
As a conﬁrmation of this truth, blessed Francis, the father of the mendicants, proposed in the beginning of his rule the ﬁrst three points as requiring a vow because of their fundamental character. For he said: “The rule and life of the Friars Minor is this, namely, to observe the holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property and in chastity.” Later, he recommended the other three as desirable complements when he said: “I also admonish the friars… to strive above all things to have the spirit of the Lord and his holy operation, to pray to him with a pure heart, and to have humility, patience in persecution and in inﬁrmity, and to love those who persecute, reprehend and blame us.” Here he is touching upon the other three points. He ﬁrst recommends elevation to God and he ends with love towards neighbour. Between these he places charity towards enemies.
In the ﬁrst three instances, the perfect man is cruciﬁed to the world; in the next three, he is made to conform to God: like a six winged seraph, he is elevated above the things of the world and carried aloft to the divine. How ﬁttingly, then, in the seraphic apparition did Christ impress his stigmata in approbation upon the holy little poor man! For Francis perfectly served and perfectly taught the perfection of the Gospel and (by the mark of his wounds) Christ gave us a clear sign of the way of perfection as opposed to the dangerous darkness of these later times; a sign through which we may return to him, the exemplar and end of perfect virtue; a sign of how to attain perfection if we learn not to set our minds on high things, but condescend to the lowly.
Almighty and ever-living God,
you were pleased to make you Church illustrious
through the varied splendour of the Saints of the Seraphic Order.
As we venerate their memory in one festival
may we also follow such shining examples of virtues on earth
and thus obtain merited crowns in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.