Flightless rear fledges, only guiding things,
thought in error strong when empty of power,
the gift of flight comes from Godly wings
beating tirelessly; through them spirits would flower.
And we live our lives in the power of our commitments, whatever they are, for every man commits to something even if it is never to get committed! We, if we wish to be followers of St. Francis, do so by striving to live the tenets of the lifestyle he gave us as our response and commitment to live the Gospel. Through this manner of living we seek Union with the Lord. The First Rule of the Third Order of 1221 was designed to “feather our wings??, not our tails. It does give us the spiritual tools to grow in holiness. For the simple fact is that souls are like birds. As depicted in the dove at the start of this section, our souls can fly without those tail feathers, but not without those wing feathers.
This entire analogy, was the cause of this poem. There was a man who was on a fishing trip in Northern Minnesota in the Spring of 1990. A robin wandered into the entryway of the cabin where he was staying. As he tried to capture the bird to release it he grasped its tail and began carrying it towards the door. The bird did not wait to get to the door. It flapped its wings and flew away leaving all its tail feathers in his hand! Every single feather! The man was absolutely incredulous to see it fly to the top of a tree nearby quite content to be free!
The simple fact, that the leaders of every Order in the world should know, is that people don’t need excessive guidelines, constitutions, books, or statutes to advance in holiness. They don’t even need Rules of life except that they will create their own Rule of life if they are not given one. Hence, the Lord, who knows the heart of man well , gave us all the one Rule, the Gospel. And if we were not fallen, we would not even need the Gospel for it would be written in our consciences and we would never violate our consciences.
The other Rules, given to us by the Saints, which now includes so many and diverse Rules as to defy summation and includes the Franciscan charisma through the Rule of 1221 among others, all simply confirm and embellish the Gospel. They make it easier to see the Gospel and live if for particular groups of people in particular ways, which simply recognizes that “The body of Christ is His Church.?? (Eph 1:23), and it, like any body, has many members which coexist and function together as one person.
So, the First Rule of the Third Order of St. Francis of 1221 was given to us lay people to show us how to live the Gospel. St. Francis was not interested in having us live a Rule. He wanted us to live the Gospel and that is the intent of his Rules for any of his Orders. To live the Gospel, that is the key to holiness, and that is no “child’s play?? except, perhaps, a child of God. Walking is fine, but to be saints we must learn to fly! We should all, everywhere, remember that the power of flight lies in our wings! Prayer, ministry, fasting, sacraments amidst joy!