On a cold winter’s day, Saint Francis walked with Brother Leo from Perugia to the Porziúncola (approximately a half day’s journey). Because of their poverty, they suffered much in the cold. At one point, Brother Leo asked Saint Francis: “Father, please, I beg you to tell me: what is perfect joy?”
Saint Francis answered:
If we arrive at the Porziúncola and if we are drenched with rain and trembling with cold, covered in mud and exhausted from hunger; and if we knock on the convent gate; and if we are not recognized by the porter; and if he tells us that we are impostors who seek to deceive the world and steal from the poor; and if he refuses to open the gate; and if he leaves us outside, exposed to the rain and snow, suffering from cold and hunger; then if we embrace the injustice, cruelty, and contempt with patience, without complaining; and if we believe in faith, love, and humility that the porter knew us but was told by God to reject us, then, my dear Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this also is perfect joy!
Saint Francis then said:
Brother Leo, if we knock again and if the porter drives us away with curses and blows; and if he accuses us of robbery and other crimes; and if we embrace this with patience without complaining; and if we believe in faith, love, and humility that the porter knew us but was told by God to reject us again, then, my dear Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this is finally perfect joy!
Saint Francis said once more:
If urged by cold and hunger, we knock again; if we call again to the porter; if we plead to him with many tears to open the gate and to give us shelter out of love for God; and if he returns more angry than ever; and if he calls us annoying rascals and beats us with a knotted stick; and if he throws us to the ground, rolls us in the snow, and beats us again with the knotted stick; and if we bear these injuries with patience without complaining; and if we think upon the sufferings of our Blessed Crucified Lord, then, most beloved Brother Leo, please write down and note carefully that this, finally, is perfect joy!
We all go through difficult moments, and the Cross appears in our lives. Yet, nothing can destroy that supernatural joy, which adapts and transforms us, and prevails always, at least as a tiny light, that comes from the certainty of being infinitely loved, beyond all else. It is an interior conviction, a hopeful serenity, which gives us an incomprehensible spiritual satisfaction.
Joy is the fruit of a life of prayer, a sign of our generosity, our detachment from the world and our union with God. The devil can do nothing to a joyful person; sadness, instead, opens the door to him.
A saint is capable of living with joy and a sense of humor – no matter the circumstances. Without escaping from reality, he (she) shines to others with a positive and hopeful spirit. Being a Christian is joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14: 17) because joy is the result of charity, and a lover rejoices in the union with the beloved. If we allow Jesus to take us out of our shell, and to change our lives, then we could make a reality what St. Paul preached: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4: 4)
Mother María Elena Martínez is a nun, born in Mexico City, where she still resides today. She has had a consecrated life for more than 30 years. She is currently a member of a community called María Madre del Amor which is dedicated to evangelization through Emmaus retreats in parishes and prisons and Sicar retreats for young people.