The Wesbury Blog

Weekly Devotional By Sam Marchetta, Director of Spiritual Care

Today’s devotion is from one of the great saints in the Christian tradition—Francis of Assisi.  Francis was born in 1182 AD in Assisi, Italy.  He was born wealthy, to an influential merchant, who sold and imported textiles. Eventually, Francis began to feel empty, and despite his wealth, felt as if he had no real purpose. A series of events led him to purposefully leave his affluent lifestyle and serve the “poorest of the poor.”  He founded a religious community that later became known as the Franciscans.  Francis left little of his writings or thoughts; however, one writing attributed to him is True and Perfect Joy.

This work is over 800 years old.  In it, he asks this question: “what is true joy?”  I imagine in our day, like Francis’, we could come up with some scenarios that would fit that description:  Hitting the Lottery?  Finding the perfect relationship?  A Healthy body?  Eating all the foods we like and never gaining weight!  Take a moment and consider this question: “what would true joy look like for you?”  Below is an excerpt of how Francis answers this question:

7“Then what is true joy?”8“I return from Perugia and arrive here in the dead of night. It’s wintertime, muddy, and so cold that icicles have formed on the edges of my habit and keep striking my legs and blood flows from such wounds. 9Freezing, covered with mud and ice, I come to the gate and, after I’ve knocked and called for some time, a brother comes and asks: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Brother Francis,’ I answer. 10‘Go away!’ he says. ‘This is not a decent hour to be wandering about! You may not come in!’ 11When I insist, he replies: ‘Go away! You are simple and uneducated! Don’t come back to us again! There are many of us here like you—we don’t need you!’ 12I stand again at the door and say: ‘For the love of God, take me in tonight!’ 13And he replies: ‘I will not! 14Go to the Crosiers’ place and ask there!’15“I tell you this: If I had patience and did not become upset, true joy, as well as true virtue and the salvation of my soul, would consist in this.”

Here are several takeaways from this ancient, medieval text that are still applicable to us today:

  1. True joy is not based on a perfect life. It’s much more than that.  Why? Joy is not what happens to us; rather, it’s found in how we choose to respond to life’s greatest challenges. We do not always have a choice in what is done to us or said about us.  The only choice we have is our response.
  2. Storms on the outside do not always mean storms on the inside: Notice the imagery that Francis uses. It’s cold and snowy and muddy.  One imagines a person walking through a storm feeling chilled and soaked to the bone.  Yet, the storm is what is happening outside of him.  It is not the image that is happening on the inside.  Inside, despite his challenges, he is at perfect peace.  Why?  Because he has chosen joy in the hardest seasons of life.

 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Rom 12:12

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