When the little man from Assisi stripped naked in the public square in the late twelfth-century and denounced his father's lucrative cloth-trading business, he became, at that moment, a beggar. Our culture doesn't like beggars. We ignore them. We walk past the homeless and those asking for money for food, train tickets, gas, or medicine for their children. They wander the streets, begging for our help.
St. Francis of Assisi was a beggar, or more accurately and theologically savvy, one of the first to found a mendicant order. We like the term "mendicants." It sounds much better than "given to begging." But that's exactly what the earliest Franciscans (and Dominicans) were--beggars. They owned nothing. They relied solely on the open hearts and giving spirits of the people in Italy or Spain, or wherever their prophetic journeys took them.
In the last few weeks, I have found it is actually more healing to receive than to give. When in the midst of my own losses, of love and of the home life I had and hoped was secure, I felt stripped of everything I had known: my husband's love, my sense of security, my own life. But healing is happening because of the pure open hearts and giving spirits of friends who, without me even asking, have given me meals, gift cards for more meals, help, love, advice, wisdom, and genuine and deep friendship. I cannot imagine how I'd have gotten through these last months without friends like Tammy and Kim, Denise and Peg(s), the Carolyn(s), Traci, Lori, Paula, Deanna, Amber, Patti, RuthEllen, sweet Jane, Joel's crocheted critters, Angela, Jennifer, Jan, Barb and dozens of loving members of Forty Martyrs Catholic Church in Tuscola, Lisa, Tanya, and AnnaMaria, plus many others. Someone said that when you lose a love, a long-term relationship or marriage, people don't swoop in and help like they do when you lose someone to death. But I have found, with my begging and desperate heart, people do swoop in to help and love and feed, both spiritually and literally.
But we must be open up to be a mendicant--a beggar. We aren't always good at accepting help. Most people prefer to give it--to make that lasagna and deliver it to a family in need. Mendicancy is a treasure of the spiritual life and one we can count on in times of sorrow. We must be truly and deeply grateful for the salvific power of brokenness which can lead to new life if only we are willing to open our brokenness up to others and to receive their love.