The Three R's


Part 18


Most people would agree that a well-rounded education must be built upon the
foundation of the Three R's" - colloquially expressed as reading, writing and arithmetic. In the school of virtue, there are likewise "Three R's" which make a vital contribution to the spiritual well-roundedness which is sanctity: REVERENCE, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. Like the classic Three R's" of academic life, the Three R's* of the spirit are never out-of-fashlon. In fact, the rapid development of a technological, secularized society has highlighted the unchanging need for REVERENCE, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY in every area of human endeavor.

REVERENCE enables us to step back and take a deeper look at all that surrounds us and discover the transcendent dimension of creation. (The word RESPECT comes from the Latin respicere - to took back) We can only revere what we respect. Hence, every call to REVERENCE, presupposes a RESPECTFUL looking beneath the surface and into the depths of things. RESPECT enables us to "read" God's handwriting in creation, in other people, and in ourselves. It equips us to make
room for the mystery of God (St. John Paul II) and thus bring into thought, word and
action a deep-seated REVERENCE for the divine action and the divine presence.
Care for creation and consideration for other people all flow from this RESPECT and REVERENCE dynamic.

The chivalrous courtesy which was so characteristic of St. Francis of Assisi was
rooted in RESPECT. He was a man who was constantly responding to the call of God to took again, to look deeper, to view people, things and circumstances with the
reverently respectful eyes of faith and charity. Francis respected creation precisely
because he revered its Creator. St. Bonaventure wrote that roused by all things to the
love of God [Francis] rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands. In beautiful things he saw Beauty itself and through His vestiges imprinted on creation he followed his
Beloved everywhere, making from all things a ladder by which he could climb up and
embrace Him who is utterly desirable.

But Francis' REVERENCE and RESPECT did not end there. In them was contained an urgent summons to RESPONSIBILITY, to care for, defend, protect and promote the divine good hidden in every person and imprinted on all of creation. The Little Poor Man enfleshed St. Paul's injunction: While we live, we are RESPONSIBLE to the Lord, and when we die, we die as His servants. (Romans 14:18) Once the Church had confirmed his Gospel form of life, Francis of Assisi dedicated his energies to fulfilling his mission as the father and founder of a religious Order. Do not speak to me of other ways was his terse reply to those who tried to dissuade him from his God-given charism. Like the enterprising servant in the Gospel, St. Francis worked tirelessly and responsibly to retum his talent multiplied.


The greatest scholars never graduate from their "Three R's." nor do the masters
of the spiritual life - the saints - advance beyond theirs. REVERENCE, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY are basic virtues which keep us looking ever deeper into the mystery of God at work in our lives and in the world around us. They help us to "read" the signs of the times, to "write" the love of God into the story of our lives and to multiply His talents of grace and nature for the benefit of all.


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