Saturday, February 6, 2010


A while ago I took a photo of the sanctuary of St. Francis Xavier on 17th St. in Manhattan, at the time the apse was blocked by tall scaffolding evocative of that spirit of religious reform that never rests, it always seems to take hold of someone who finds himself unable to find God in what is presented to him as Godly.

Is it true that when St. Francis lived there were moments when the man with a passion for poverty and its attendant spiritual ecstasies regretted the order that he'd formed, knowing what becomes of orders, how susceptible they are to the corruptions of greed and power. Did anyone in Western religious tradition ever embody the principle of "poor in spirit' better? Hierarchical organizations are never poor in spirit, are they? There's often a complex, an agenda, always a desperate grab and an arrogance that muffles the sweet, fierce and altogether contradictory whispers of the living God. But I suppose Francis proved that the spirit of the order comes down to the character of the leadership.


Old First said...

um. You know that St Francis Xavier is different person than St. Francis (of Assisi), right? St Francis Xavier was one of the first great Jesuits, a follower of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who became a missionary to Goa in India and then to China, where he died.

The Jesuits and the Franciscans are almost opposites in their "charisms".

amarilla said...

Erm, thanks. I should have known that! OK, not that Francis.

I wonder how you would characterize those opposing charisms? I think Francis of Assisi would have seen book learning as a luxury that was more likely to put distance between self and God, a very Daoist viewpoint. The Jesuits, on the other hand, might have argued that learning diverse subjects brings you closer to comprehending the divine.