Page images
PDF
EPUB

could only understand that the folly of the Gospel is truest wisdom, the heart of the preachers would be at rest.

The first to understand this quickly were two citizens of Assisi, Bernard of Quintavalle, a wealthy man of mark; and a. canon named Peter. When Bernard made known his intention of distributing his goods amongst the poor, St. Francis selected a church of Assisi as the place in which Bernard and Peter were to meet him. When they were met together there, all three, after the manner of the time, set themselves to consult the Gospel, and opening the sacred volume they read: “If thou wouldst be perfect, sell what thou hast and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have a treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.The meaning of these words were clear to them. The two disciples went at once to sell their belongings ; and one can fancy how Assisi must have looked wonderingly on that scene from Apostolic times when it was set before their

eyes in all its present truthfulness in the great square of their city. Wealthy Bernard of Quintavalle held his fortune in a fold of his robe, and scattered it among the hands stretched towards him. By his side young Bernardone stood looking, but not with the air certainly of one who saw anything strange in what was being done before him.

An old priest chose that very time to clamour for the money which he said was due to him for the repairs of the church of St. Damian. Francis, thrusting his hand among the gold of Bernard, threw a handful of crowns to the priest, and was about to give him another with all the manner of one who utterly despised that dross, but the priest, half ashamed of himself, was slinking off, saying that he had had quite enough.

Eight days afterwards there was another recruit, then a fourth, and a fifth, and so on, until there were twelve. Neither the master nor his disciples had any idea of founding an order. Anyone who understands the character of St. Francis would never attribute to him carefully considered or well-matured plans. In the year 1209, during which he gathered his first disciples around him, neither he nor they had any intention beyond living according to their belief. Not one of them had a thought of establishing the Franciscans. The most powerful of the religious orders that have ever existed was founded, one would say, unintentionally. The little community established themselves in a hut, which they had put together somehow in the valley below Assisi, near a little neglected chapel, called St. Mary of the Portiuncula. They had put on the grey habit and the hempen cord, selected by their master, instead of the dress of a hermit, because he thought the shoes and leathern belt savoured too much of luxury. They prayed a good deal, they toiled with their hands, they went begging from door to door, St. Francis at their head to set them the example ; for it was on this particular point he met with the greatest opposition from

persons of every class. The idea that the honour and dignity of a good man are above his surroundings and the accidents of life, is one that is received with very great reluctance by men. It would, however, be an exceeding blessing in an age of violence when the weak were unceasingly trampled upon by the strong, and on this account St. Francis held to it with all the earnestness of his earnest soul. " The Son of God,” said he to his companions, “was much more noble than we are; He became poor for our sake. We have chosen poverty through love of Him, and we ought not to be ashamed to go abegging.” Some of them, nevertheless, found it hard to resolve to stretch forth their hands for charity, both because the public blamed them, and their families complained that the disgrace of it was thrown back on them, and also because even the Bishop of Assisi, who protected the Portiuncula, did not hide his belief that this begging was a little too much. He gave St. Francis to understand that this was his opinion; and the answer of the saint is worth recording, for it defines distinctly the social aim which his work had even at that

take money

time in his mind. “My lord,” said he, "if we possess anything whatsoever we shall need arms to defend our possessions, for it is from possessions that lawsuits and feuds arise ; it is from property that love of God and of our neighbour meets with thousand stumbling blocks, and for this reason we do not wish to possess any earthly thing in this world.” This answer pleased the bishop very much, says Thomas of Celano. Begging became a portion of the rule, but they were not to

. There was never a single coin at St. Mary of the Angels. Work of the hands was another rule. Never an idle moment. One was cook, another was gardener, a third was a drawer of water, and a fourth a hewer of wood. Those who were specially skilful busied themselves in the craft which they knew, and gave their work in exchange for things needed by the community. Public opinion gave way to strength of evidence. It was not for laziness they went abegging at Portiuncula.

(To be continued.)

KILOREA, CO, CORK.

In the last March number of the TERTIARY We gave a brief sketch of the Franciscan Convent of Kilcrea, in the Co. Cork. It may not be uninteresting to our readers to supplement the article by a notice of a few of the remarkable men who were once its inmates, or whose bodies rest in its consecrated soil.

Father Thaddeus O'Sullivan, the most celebrated preacher of his time in Ireland, was, for many years, a member of the Community of Kilcrea. He belonged to the illustrious family of the O'Sullivans of Bear, among whom he found

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][merged small]

hospitality and sure protection whenever persecution compelled him to seek their aid. No English soldier had yet dared to enter their mountain fastnesses of Glengarriff, or approach the lordly towers of Dunboy, where a cordial welcome waited every fugitive from civil or religious tyranny. The O'Sullivans were, at this time, in constant communication with Spain. Their young kinsman naturally sought, in the great schools of that country, the education denied him at home. After a short residence in Spain he joined the Franciscan Order, and devoted himself for some years to sacred learning. He returned to Ireland about the middle of the sixteenth century, to find the religion of his fathers proscribed, the churches desecrated, and the monasteries of his Order plundered. Perhaps this was the motive of his return. His country needed his services; and so, bidding farewell to the peace and security of his Spanish convent, he entered upon the scene of his labours.

The Franciscan Monasteries of Dublin and Cork had been already suppressed in 1540. That of Youghal met the same fate a few years later. Kilcrea, thanks to the powerful protection of the M‘Carthys, had as yet escaped the plunderer. Here Father O'Sullivan took up his residence, but his was not to be the peaceful life of the cloister. Obeying the commands of his superiors he entered upon a missionary life. He travelled the greater portion of Ireland, preaching with wonderful fruit. We read of his labours in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, Cork and other cities. In the calamitous Desmond wars, he followed the soldiers into the mountains and morasses, instructing and restraining them. He spoke with such eloquence and fervour, and led a life of such sanctity and perpetual toil for the love of souls, that the Irish called him their second Patrick; “because," says O'Sullivan Bear, in his history of Ireland, “by him in these times was preserved the Christian faith which St. Patrick planted among them.” He was the friend and trusted

« PreviousContinue »