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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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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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