Minute Meditations

What Is Perfect Joy?

Joyful men playing ukulele

“Write down, Brother Leo, ‘This is perfect joy.’ For above all the graces that Christ gives his friends is the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables us to conquer self and willingly bear any pain, injury, insult, and hardship for love of Jesus Christ. We cannot glory in any other gift but this because it is not ours but his. That is why the Apostle Paul says, ‘May I not boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ (Galatians 6: 14).

This story is a favorite among Franciscans. It reveals the source of true Franciscan joy born of humility in imitation of the Poor Crucified Christ. It is what makes a true fraternity a place of healing and forgiveness instead of a place of security, closed to the poor and forsaken, to those who knock uninvited and unwanted at the friary door. In a true fraternity the friars have learned to see their own brokenness, their jealousy, their desire for power. And they have learned to forgive that in themselves and in each other. They learn to laugh at themselves and tell each other that this is perfect joy. Only then does their fraternity become a healing place for others. And that is why Francis takes Brother Illuminato with him to try to bring Christ’s peace to Damietta in the midst of the Fifth Crusade, two brothers with no illusions about themselves going where they know ahead of time that perfect joy is waiting for them. And this is how it came to pass that two Lesser Brothers entered and were accepted, after much infliction of perfect joy from the Crusaders and the sultan’s guards, into the presence of Sultan Malik al-Kamil. This is the way peacemaking happens. This is what St. Francis says in word and deed.

—from the book Surrounded by Love: Seven Teachings from Saint Francis
by Murray Bodo, OFM

Surrounded by Love by Murray Bodo


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