The Magic of Celebrity
It has been a tough week for some celebrity figures. Oscar Pistorius, a symbol of resilience and achievement, has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Furthermore, Aborginal rugby star Ben Barba has lost his childhood sweetheart and his career through his gambling and drinking. Both stars, not unlike many that we have heard of before, have fallen hard. A meteoric rise and a plummet that reverberates around the media and throughout the world. Even in the Catholic Church, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the only prelate attending the election of the Pope representing Scotland and the UK has resigned amid claims he had inappropriate sexual relations with junior clerics in the 80s.
It ignites the voyeur in us – how others fail and how they “revert to type” is reading for all armchair critics. The magic of celebrity is an illusion. Beneath the media presence is a heart that beats and a soul that can be troubled by the pressure exerted on it. Jesus experienced the same thing when he went to Nazareth to continue his ministry but was typecast by his humble origins and ultimately relegated to the sin-bin, no longer valid in his ministry even though he had the capacity to heal. The same goes with our fallen heroes. Perhaps their struggle teaches us that we all contend with the highs and lows of life and that no one is exempt from experiencing this dynamic. Francis speaks with the surf in the field who, boldly, says, “Just be as good as they say you are.” But sometimes this is too much in a complex world that constantly observes and judges.
I don’t judge Oscar Pistorius, Ben Barba or Keith O’Brien. The truth will out but it also sets us free. In a display of human frailty, we stand to learn much about what Lent means – that we recognise and understand our failings in terms of the redemption that Christ promises. Thank God.
And we pray for the conclave, weak as they are, in the election of a new Pontiff. This cannot be an easy task. I offer you a little video to help you understand how this may take place.
READINGS FOR THE THIRD WEEK IN LENT! LOL!
Sunday, 3rd March.
A reading from ‘The Later Rule of Saint Francis’.
Let the brothers fast from the feast of All Saints until the Lord’s Nativity. May those be blessed by the Lord who fast voluntarily during that holy Lent that begins at the Epiphany and lasts during the forty days which our Lord consecrated for his own fast; but those who do not wish to keep it will not be obliged. Let them fast, however, during the other Lent until the Lord’s Resurrection. At other times, they may not be bound to fast except on Fridays. During a time of obvious need, however, the brothers may not be bound by corporal fast. I counsel, admonish and exhort my brothers in the Lord Jesus Christ not to quarrel or argue or judge others when they go about in the world; but let them be meek, peaceful, modest, gentle and humble, speaking courteously to everyone, as is becoming. They should not ride horseback unless they are compelled by an obvious need or an infirmity. Into whatever house they enter, let them first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ According to the holy gospel, let them eat whatever food is set before them.
Lord, let us be gentle with each other during this season of fasting and self-denial. May our fasting be filled with joy as with our feasting. Amen.
Monday, 4th March
A reading from ‘The Little Flowers of Saint Francis’
Once, Saint Francis was alongside the Lake of Perugia on the day of the Carnival, at the house of a man devoted to him, where he was lodged for the night. He was inspired by God to go to make that Lent on an island in the lake. So Saint Francis asked this devout man that, for love of Christ, he carry him with his little boat to an island of the lake where no one lived, and that he do this on the night of the Day of Ashes, so that no one would notice. And this man, out of love – from the great devotion he had for Saint Francis – promptly fulfilled his request and carried him to that island. And Saint Francis took nothing with him except two small loaves of bread. Arriving at the island, as his friend was departing to return home, Saint Francis asked him kindly not to reveal to anyone that he was there, and that he should not come for him until Holy Thursday. And so the man departed, and Saint Francis remained alone. Since there was no dwelling in which he could take shelter, he went into some very thick brush that was formed like a little den or a little hut by many bushes and saplings. And in this place he put himself in prayer and contemplation of heavenly things. And there he stayed the whole of Lent without eating or drinking, except for half of one of those little loaves, as his devoted friend found on Holy Thursday when he returned for him; for of the two loaves he found one whole one and one half; the other half, it is supposed, Saint Francis ate, out of reverence for the fast of the blessed Christ, who fasted for forty days and forty nights without taking any material food. And thus, with that half of a loaf, he drove away from himself vainglory, and after the example of Christ he fasted forty days and forty nights.
Lord, may we make our retreat to the silent places around us, carrying the simple things of life to sustain us throughout our Lenten journey. Amen.
Tuesday, 5th March.
A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation.
Blessed Francis stayed in the hermitage of the brothers at Fonte Colombo near Rieti, because of the disease of his eyes. One day, the eye doctor of that city visited him and stayed with him for some hours, as he often used to do. When he was ready to leave, blessed Francis said to one of his companions, ‘Go and give the doctor a good meal.’ ‘Father,’ his companion answered, ‘we are ashamed to say that, because we are poor now, we would be ashamed to invite him and give him anything to eat.’ Blessed Francis told his companions, ‘0 you of little faith! Do not make me tell you again!’ The doctor said to blessed Francis and his companions, ‘Brother, it is because the brothers are so poor that I am happy to eat with them.’ The doctor was very rich and, although blessed Francis and his companions had often invited him, he had refused to eat there.
The brothers went and set the table. With embarrassment, they placed the little bread and wine they had, as well as a few greens they had prepared for themselves.
When they had sat down at the table and eaten a bit, there was a knock at the door of the hermitage. One of the brothers arose, went, and opened the door. And there was a woman with a large basket filled with beautiful bread, fish, crabcakes, honey and freshly-picked grapes, which had been sent to brother Francis by a lady of the town about seven miles away from the hermitage. After they saw this and considered the holiness of blessed Francis, the brothers and the doctor were greatly amazed. ‘My brothers,’ the doctor said to them, ‘neither you nor we sufficiently recognize the holiness of this saint.’
Lord, you provide for our every need. Provide us again that we may share your goodness with others. Amen.
Wednesday, 6th March
A reading from ‘The Assisi Compilation‘
Once, at the very beginning, that is, at the time when blessd Francis began to have brothers, he was staying with them at Rivo Torto. One night, around midnight, when they were all asleep in their beds, one of the brothers cried out, saying, ‘I am dying! I am dying!’ Startled and frightened, all the brothers woke up. Getting up, blessd Francis said, ‘Brothers, get up and light a lamp.’ After the lamp was lit, blessed Francis said, ‘Who was it who said “I am dying”?’ ‘I am the one,’ the brother answered. ‘What is the matter, brother?’, blessed Francis said to him. ‘Why are you dying?’ ‘I am dying of hunger,’ he answered. So that brother would not be ashamed to eat alone, blessed Francis, a man of great charity and discernment, immediately had the table set and they all ate together with him. This brother, as well as the others, were newly converted to the Lord and afflicted their bodies excessively. After the meal, blessed Francis said to the other brothers, ‘My brothers, I say that each of you must consider his own constitution, because, although one of you may be sustained with less food than another, I still do not want one who needs more food to try imitating him in this. Rather, considering his constitution, he should provide his body with what it needs. Just as we must be aware of over-indulgence in eating, which harms body and soul, so we must beware of excessive abstinence even more, because the Lord desires mercy and not sacrifice.’ And he said, ‘Dearest brothers, great necessity and charity compelled me to do what I did, namely that, out of love for our brother, we ate together with him, so he would not be embarrassed to eat alone. But I tell you, in the future, I do not wish to act this way because it would not be religious or decent. Let each one provide his body with what it needs as our poverty will allow. This is what I wish and command you.’
Lord, let us protect those who are weak and join them in having their needs met for the sake of fraternity and love. Amen.
Thursday, 7th March
A reading from The Assisi Compilation
Once, Francis was staying in a hermitage for the Lent of Saint Martin. Because of his illness, the brothers cooked the food they gave him to eat in lard, because oil was very bad for him in his illnesses. When the forty days had ended, and he was preaching to a large crowd of people, gathered not far from that hermitage, in the opening words of his sermon he told them, ‘You came to me with great devotion and believe me to be a holy man. But I confess to God and to you that, during this Lent, in that hermitage, I have eaten food flavoured with lard.’ Indeed, if the brothers or the friends of the brothers, with whom he would eat, occasionally prepared a special dish for him because of his illnesses or the obvious need of his body, it frequently happened that he would immediately tell this to the brothers or lay people who did not know about it, whether inside the house or outside, saying publicly, ‘I ate such and such foods.’ He did not wish to conceal from people what was known to God. Moreover, if his soul were ever tempted to vainglory, pride or any vice, no matter where he was, or in whose presence, whether they be Religious or lay, he would immediately and openly confess it to them, without concealing anything. This is why he told his companions one day, ‘I want to live before God, in hermitages and other places where I stay, just as the people see and know me. if they believe that I am a holy man and do not lead a life becoming a holy man, I would be a hypocrite.’
Lord, let us confess openly to one another the things that we have done and seek forgiveness readily. Amen.
Friday, 8th March
A reading from ‘The Third Letter of Saint Clare to Blessed Agnes of Prague’
Now concerning those matters that you have asked me to clarify for you: which are the specific feasts our most glorious father Saint Francis urged us to celebrate in a special way by a change of food – feasts of which, I believe, you already have some knowledge – I propose to respond to your love. Your prudence should know, then, that except for the weak and the sick, for whom Saint Francis advised and admonished us to show every possible discretion in matters of food, none of us who are healthy and strong should eat anything other than Lenten fare, either on ferial days or on feast days. Thus, we must fast every day except Sundays and the Nativity of the Lord, on which days we may have two meals. And on ordinary Thursdays everyone may do as she wishes, so that she who does not wish to fast is not obliged. However, we who are well should fast every day except on Sundays and on Christmas. During the entire Easter week, as the writing of Saint Francis tells us, and on the feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the holy Apostles, we are not obliged to fast, unless these feasts occur on a Friday. And, as I have already said, let we who are well and strong always eat Lenten fare.
But our flesh is not bronze nor is our strength that of stone. No, we are frail and inclined to every bodily weakness! I beg you, therefore, dearly beloved, to refrain wisely and prudently from an indiscreet and impossible austerity in the fasting that you have undertaken. And I beg you in the Lord to praise the Lord by your very life, to offer the Lord your reasonable service and your sacrifice always seasoned with salt. May you do well in the Lord, as I hope I myself do. And remember me and my sisters in your prayers.
Lord, we are frail and flawed. Let our service of others shine out and heal the wounds of this world. Amen.
Saturday, 9th March
A reading from “The Acts of the Process of Canonisation” of St Clare
The witness also said the blessed mother Clare kept vigil so much of the night in prayer, and kept so many abstinences that the sisters lamented and were alarmed. She said that because of this she herself has sometimes wept. Asked how she knew this, she replied: because she saw when Lady Clare lay on the ground and had a rock from the river for her head, and heard her when she was in prayer. She said she was so very strict in her food that the sisters marvelled at how her body survived. She also said blessed Clare fasted much of the time. She also said the blessed mother was assiduous and careful in her prayers, lying a long time upon the ground, remaining humbly prostrate. When she came from her prayer, she admonished and comforted her sisters alwasy speaking the words of God who was always in her mouth.
Lord, may you always use us as your mouthpiece to speak your words of peace. Amen.