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Bible Reflections View Comments

We Need to Begin Somewhere
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
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In a crumbling wayside chapel, a young Saint Francis heard a voice telling him, “Go, rebuild my church.” Eager to have some concrete way of expressing his devotion to the Lord, Francis began to restore the tiny church of San Damiano. He took the stones that lay around the ruins and fitted them back into place as best he could. When those ran out, he begged stones from the townspeople of Assisi and hauled them down the steep slope to continue his labor. A close friend from his days of revelry became curious about Francis’s work and, after investigating, resolved to help. Others joined in the labor and some who
could not offer their work offered money for materials. Eventually, not only the little chapel was rebuilt, but the whole Church was restored and refreshed by his example.

Today’s Gospel offers a familiar story—the feeding of the multitude. Jesus takes a boy’s five loaves and two dried fish and feeds thousands. Many focus on just how this was accomplished. Did Jesus use his divine power to make food materialize out of nothing?
Did he somehow cause those few loaves and fishes to multiply, resulting in a sufficient quantity for all? Were there some in the crowd who did have food with them and who were inspired to share with those who lacked? Certainly a miracle occurred on that day, whether Jesus multiplied a bit of food or some small amount of human compassion. Though we cannot be sure just how it all happened, we can find in this story an example of how to make good things happen ourselves.

When Francis responded to the voice of God, as far as history records, he had no experience in construction. He couldn’t afford to hire an architect or a builder to plan the project at hand. He couldn’t buy the necessary materials. No reasonable person would have expected his efforts to be successful in the least. But, though many thought he was crazy, Francis made a start. Jesus, too, must have stunned his own disciples when he indicated that he wanted to feed the crowd and then asked for the boy’s meager rations. No reasonable person could have expected the crowd to be fed that day. But Jesus said the
blessing, and the meal began.

Whether we have a Christian obligation to do something, or perhaps are just responding to a need we sense in others, our task is to begin. Perhaps what we have set out to do will be finished by someone else. Maybe others will be inspired by our action and help in our cause, or begin their own. We cannot see the end of the works we begin in faith, but that does not mean we cannot make a start.

For the early Church this story of Jesus feeding the crowds with bread (and its foreshadowing of the gift of the Eucharist), was central to the gospel. For us, too, the actions of the Eucharist and sharing our bread with the hungry are intertwined. Despite achieving well beyond what he set out to do at San Damiano, in his last days Francis told his brothers, “We must begin to do good, for until now we have done nothing.” Yet later, as he lay dying, Francis said to them, “I have done what was mine to do; may Christ teach you what you are to do.”

Goethe has been quoted as saying, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” Francis and Jesus would agree.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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