If you were in Church this past Sunday (or if you have Italian DNA within you), you know that yesterday, on October 4, almost all the church traditions of Christianity celebrated the memory and Feast of Francis of Assisi.
I’m not going to repeat my sermon verbatim, but there are aspects about this extraordinary man that we all should seriously consider.
While there are so many dimensions of his life that are worth imitating, I think what most impresses me was his capacity to see beyond life’s limitations. He “saw” what was not obvious. Believing to have experienced the voice of God from within to “rebuild My church,” he undertakes the obvious (physical repair of the local village church building that had fallen into ruin), but from there he “sees” that so much more was being asked of him. He needed to begin to rebuild a broken ecclesial community – a gathering of leaders more concerned with their own prestige than in spiritually nourishing God’s people.
The medieval world was severe. Warfare, disease, abuse of power, ignorance, superstition, poverty, etc. were the norm and not the exception. Francis (not a 60’s radical or some flower power child) was a man of passion and insight. He could see the goodness of God in all of God’s creation. He was a man of peace with all to whom he ministered, be they those wanting to follow his lifestyle of poverty, chastity and obedience or the animals that were the hallmark of medieval life – thus the images of Francis preaching to animals and why we bless animals on his day. He wrote a powerful hymn about the beauty of God’s creation when he was sick and had lost his sight, and thus he could not physically “see” the very things he was describing and yet he saw them with the clarity of a poet and mystic. He interjected himself into the crusades to stop bloodshed in at least one battle forcing both Christian and Muslim armies to back away from the killing field.
This was a man who knew that Christ had called him to make a difference. He did. So should we!
– Fr. Joe