Thursday, October 12, 2006

magnanimous or pusillanimous?

I'm reading a wonderful book called Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron.

It's a novel that tells the story of a pastor who begins to question his faith. He is ejected from his church for a long holiday (gotta love the power elders wield!) and undertakes a pilgrimage to Italy where he is guided in the steps of Francis of Assisi by four deep, godly Catholic friars. As he journeys his faith grows. More than being a great novel, Chasing Francis is a commentary on how the church can better engage with a postmodern world.

(If this sounds fantastic, it gets better! The book has its own website for further study and [hopefully] comments!)

As I said, it's wonderful. I've been reading it slowly, laughing, crying, and cringing through nearly every page - it's struck a deep cord with me.

Here is one of my cringe quotes (p68):
"How 'real' was Francis?" I asked.

"There was nothing false about him. He only knew how to be Francis, nothing more and nothing less. Do you know Thomas Aquinas?"

"Not well. I read some of the Summa Theologica in seminary, but it's been a long time."

"Aquinas spoke about two kinds of souls - the magna animi and the pusilla animi. The magna animi is the open soul that has space for the world to enter and find Jesus. It's where you get your word magnanimous. The pusilla animi is like that." He pointed at the dark outline of the Rocca Maggiore, far up on the hillside, the fortress where the people of Assisi used to run when they were attacked by a neighbouring city.

"The pusilla animi is the defended heart. It's a guarded and suspicious spirit that's closed to the world. It sees everything and everyone as a potential threat, an enemy waiting to attack. It shields itself from the world. It's where you get the word - "

"Pusillanimous," I said. "Someone who is fearful."

"Precisely. Francis possessed the magna animi. That's what each Christian, and the church, should be like."

Somewhere along the line I've allowed myself to become a bit of a pusilla animi - I can see that guarded and suspicious spirit within myself.

It was especially evident on Sunday. A couple of old ladies at church were extremely lacking in love and grace in their manner and approach. I felt judged and chastised and criticised by their words (or in one case, lack of words). At the time I responded honestly, calmly and graciously, but when I came home it was not so! I was furious and stomped around spouting off about how I would get back at these women and teach them a thing or two about loving relationships.

Oh yeah - that'll work Cecily! They'll certainly respond to that kind of approach and a more loving relationship is bound to develop. Yep.

This little book has reminded me to choose the higher way. Don't get dragged down to the level of those around about me. Choose life. Choose love. Choose to have an open soul that has space for the world to enter and find Jesus.

So I've taken a deep breath and asked God to please change my heart. May it be a space where people find Jesus. A beautiful, fresh place filled with the fragrance of Jesus and his love.

I don't want to end up an old woman who runs around hurting enthusiastic, eager young women with bitter words and nasty looks. By the time I'm old, I want to be so full of grace and love that young women come to me for hugs and encouragement and wisdom. So I'd better start cultivating that magna animi now, before the nastiness takes too deep a root!

Jesus, may people see you in me.


At 6:42 pm, October 12, 2006, Anonymous Oliver said...

Have you discovered your inner Gods graces yet?
If you have: are you able to see the vision it has given you with your eyes shut? Hear the music it plays for you when you are deaf? Can you bellow its covenants when your heart is stuck in your throat? Do you feel your feet fly when the rest of you is dead?
If you have... sweet. Enjoy and pass it on.

At 8:26 am, October 13, 2006, Blogger Robyn said...

I love the quote....although I was amused reading it especially after our conversation last week - I could see where you were going! Won't it be wonderful when we're in Heaven and it comes naturally?

Who is Oliver?

At 9:08 am, October 13, 2006, Blogger Cecily said...

No idea on Oliver... someone in New York was on my blog for 30 minutes yesterday evening and oliver left comments elsewhere so I presume it is him. I wanted to delete the comment, but Frank thinks it's cryptic and interesting, and I don't quite know how to delete it anywhere... so there it stands!


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