DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     December 16, 1998     vol. 9, no. 243


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE & SECTION TWO
      Today's food for thought are two poignant vignettes, the first a story submitted by PD, shows us the true spirit of Saint Francis as we relate a story on the true essence of the founder of the Franciscans and illustrates in "The True Friar" the true reason for the season as does the second vignette in which a young Russian boy shows the wisdom of the ages and the eternal love of the Christ-child in "Two Babes in a manger". The second story was sent to us by NH on e-mail. They are both fitting stories in preparation for Christmas.

The True Friar

          This was told by a friar who visited the Province of England. He heard from the Minister of that Province, a man of great piety and holiness, that a certian friar who was often rapt in ecstasy had once remained in a rapture for a whole day, weeping many tears.

          On seeing him, the Minister said: "This friar is dying!" And he said to him: "Brother, I command you under obedience to come out of your rapture."

          He immediately came back to himself and asked for some food. And after he had eaten, the Minister said to him: "I order you under obedience to tell me the cause of your weeping, as we have never seen this happen to you before - indeed it seems to be contrary to the nature of a rapture."

          When the friar found that he could not avoid revealing it, he said: "I saw the Lord Jesus Christ on a high and lofty throne, surrounded by the heavenly militia, and preparing to pass judgement. And I saw not only lay persons but clerics and religious of many different Orders being damned. Then I saw someone led in wearing the habit of the Friars Minor, very elegently dressed in a very expensive habit. When he was asked about his state, he declared he was a Friar Minor. Then the Judge said: 'Brother Francis, do you hear what he says? What do you say?'

          "He answered: 'Away with him, Lord! For my Friars wear common materials and not such expensive ones.'

          "And that unhappy man was immediately cast into hell by the devils.

          "And now another came in, an important personage accompanied and honored by many great lay people. And when asked, he said he was a Friar Minor. Again the Judge spoke to St. Francis as before.

          "He answered: 'Lord, my Friars seek prayer and spiritual progress, and they flee from honors and business of wordly men.'

          "The same thing happened to him as to the first man.

          "And now came another burdened with heavy packages of costly and useless books. And the same was done with him as with the first and second.

          "And here was another who was completely preoccupied and worried about planning and building large and costly buildings. Like the others, St. Francis denied that he belonged to his Order.

          "Fiinally there came one who was very lowly in habit and appearance. And when he was asked who he was, he confessed that he was a great sinner, unworthy of anything good, and he begged for mercy.

          "St. Francis embraced him and led him into the glory of Paradise with him, saying: "Lord, he really is a Friar Minor.'

          "And that was the cause of my weeping," the friar said to the Minister.

Two babes in a manger

          In 1994, two Americans answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach in Russia. They were invited to teach at many places including a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government run program were in the orphanage. The two Americans relate the following story in their own words:

          It was nearing the holiday season, 1994, time for our orphans to hear, for the first time, the traditional story of Christmas. We told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.

          Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word. Completing the story, we gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins I had brought with me.

          No colored paper was available in the city. Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby's blanket. A doll like baby was cut from tan felt we had brought from the United States. The orphans were busy assembling their manger as I walked among them to see if they needed any help.

          All went well until I got to one table where little Misha sat. He looked to be about 6 years old and had finished his project. As I looked at the little boy's manger, I was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, I called for the translator to ask the lad why there were two babies in the manger. Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, the child began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby Jesus in the manger.

          Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending to the story as he said, "And when Mary laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don't have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn't, because I didn't have a gift to give him like everybody else did. But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift.

          So I asked Jesus, "If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift?" And Jesus told me, "If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me." "So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him for always." As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him FOR ALWAYS. I've learned that it's not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.

          Let Christmas come into our world and bring us warmth and cheer, Bring us Faith in place of doubt, and strength in place of fear, Bring us hope and bring us love to guide our hearts forever... Let Christmas come into our world

December 16, 1998       volume 9, no. 243


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