Denying Brother Donkey

St. Francis’ love for God drew him to relate very personally to all of God’s creation.  He even called his own body “Brother Donkey”.  He disciplined Brother Donkey consistently, and he was seemed to be denying it many things.  Now, why did he choose the name donkey for his body?  And why was he always denying it?

As a Franciscan postulant for 5 months, one of the great gifts I received was to attend and be a part of a Christmas play.  A group of families that are friends of the friars put on this play each year.  The kids love it, and it’s a great event for the adults too.

The play had a big cast of characters, life-like costumes, and a pretty good-sized audience.  But this play wasn’t on a stage in a gym.  It was outside in Vermont.  There was real snow, a real barn, real sheep, … and a real donkey.

Now in the play, the donkey had carried the Blessed Mother into the barn with the Christ Child for the manger scene.  After that, he was tied up to stay where he was, and all the angels and shepherds and wise men joined in the manger scene.

Now, this was the climax of the play.  You can picture it: big barn doors are slowly opened to the audience, all attention is on the Mother and Child, the choir is singing heavenly music, the kids are all excited.

Now, I don’t know what it was, whether he didn’t like the music, or he had stagefright, or he had just had it with that “tied up” thing.  Or maybe he wanted to be the center of attention.  Whatever it was, being in the play wasn’t enough for him, because at the very climax of the play, in the middle of the manger scene, the donkey decided all of a sudden that he was getting outta there.

Out he began to stride, right through the middle of the scene.  First a little angel grabbed him, then a little shepherd, and then another little shepherd.  Finally, with some strong and steady pulling, he was drawn back to his post and tied up to stay.  He must have got the message, because he stayed put right where he was placed until it was time for him to go to bed.

The donkey was denied his escape.

Is there a tendency inside of you that says, “I’m outta here” when your life isn’t going according to your desires?  Do you feel like you need a new family, a new career, new neighbors, new friends?  Do you feel a need to be the center of attention?  That is Brother Donkey trying to escape and ruin the whole scene.  Follow the angel and shepherds, follow St. Francis:

Deny him.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; for he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall save it.  For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, and cast away himself?”  (Lk 9:23-25)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.