LITTLE FLOWERS OF SAINT FRANCIS, CHAPTER 6
HOW ST FRANCIS, WHEN ABOUT TO DIE, BLESSED THE HOLY BROTHER BERNARD,
NAMING HIM VICAR OF THE ORDER
Two points attract my attention most in this chapter, the first is that Brother Francis is told that the trials Brother Bernard will go through are "to increase his virtue and win for him a crown of merit," and that Brother Francis is told that Brother Bernard will prevail in his trials. The first part of this statement is a theodicy, a statement of why there is evil in the world, although God is good. This is one major hurdle each individual human being has to deal with in coming to maturity in his or her relationship with God. All of this is spelled out in reference to Brother Bernard, for the comfort of Brother Francis. This strikes me as very unusual, but that's from the perspective of my life and what I see around me. In my experience, I and most of the people around me wonder for a long time why there is evil in the world, why God allows or causes some of the terrible things that happen to occur. It seems so random, good and bad things happen to good and bad people, seemingly without discrimination. It's a point of faith, to be accepted in the absence of proof, that God is in control and that He only allows bad things to happen so that somehow good will come of it. Gradually some of us, not originally necessarily the most virtuous or the smartest, but somehow through God's grace, come to understand that God is in absolute control and while some of the reasons for things are inexplicable at present, all happens in accordance with God's design. Even more unusual, according to my experience, is that Brother Francis is told that Brother Bernard will ultimately prevail in his trials. In some theologies - meaning just this is what some people think - we know that we're going to be victorious. That's what they mean by "saving faith." For others, only he who perseveres to the end will be saved. This is one of the argumnents that divide the church, and I don't think we have a forum for it here, it's too complicated and generally the argunents are inconclusive, I'd even say we coud find as many Bible verses to thump to prove one side of the argument as to prove the other. This may be an important question, I used to think so and have a strong opinion about it, but it has come to be among the list of things I have to change my mind about whether I can really know the answer to. I only mention it to say, how interesting it is that Brother Francis is told in advance that Brother Bernard will overcome his trials.
The other thing that attracted my attention in this chapter is the similarity of the event where Brother Bernard and Brother Elias are before Brother Francis and one is about to receive a blessing, to the story of Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph. The similarity is even commented on in this chapter. Actually, just now I'm struck with how similar the two parts of the message that was what first interested me is to the implications we can draw from this second point. As with Jacob himself, who tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the blessing traditionally reserved for the elder brother, Esau, the blessing doesn't always go where we think it should.