21st Century Lessons from a 16th Century Hermit

Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent - Memorial of St. Francis of Paola, Hermit

Genesis 17:3-9; John 8:51-59

What lessons can a 16th century hermit teach 21st century people living in the midst of a worldwide pandemic?  Perhaps more than we think.

St. Francis of Paola founded an order of Franciscan hermits known as the minimi or “least.”  They were a simple and austere group.  In addition to the three customary vows of many religious (poverty, chastity, obedience), the minimi also pledged themselves to observe a perpetual Lenten fast.  He was known for his humility and wisdom and was a counselor to kings. 

Today’s Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours includes a letter from St. Francis that seems especially apt for us today, when many of the descendants of Abraham—Jews, Christians and Muslims—are divided and contend over the land that God gave to him.  It can also apply to those of us who are “sheltering in place” and, under such circumstances and anxious about the grim news we continue to receive, can easily get on each other’s nerves.

Take pains to refrain from sharp words.  If they escape your lips, do not be ashamed to let your lips produce the remedy…. Pardon one another so that later on you will not remember the injury.  The recollection of an injury is itself a wrong.  It adds to our anger, nurtures our sin, and hates what is good.  It is a rusty arrow and a poison to the soul….

Be converted, then, with a sincere heart.  Live your life that you may receive the blessing of the Lord.  Then the peace of God our Father will be with you always.

St. Francis of Paola, pray for us! –jc