Learning to Live Life Afire from St. Francis
This coming Sunday, Oct. 4th, in addition to being the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, also happens to be the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Our readings this week reflect St. Francis and what he believed would remain good lessons for our world today.
The introduction of a book I have on St. Francis states plainly: “Francis of Assisi is not for everyone. Even many saints would not be comfortable with Francis. He lived his life afire, led a life of radical devotion to God and to service of other people, especially the poor.” Many times, when you mention St. Francis, people immediately think of birds, animals, and trees. Francis was once asked why he talked to the birds and trees and his answer was that God told him to preach the Gospel to his brothers and sisters and he believed the birds and trees are as much his brothers and sisters as people. Our First Reading describes Adam and his early animal companions. Once God sees that man needs a suitable (equal) partner and creates woman, Adams’ focus shifts from the animals to people. Should that shift of focus be to the detriment of all other creatures? St. Francis would have said absolutely not.
Our second reading speaks to the Son of God becoming “lower than the angels” for a little while, allowing him to fully understand and appreciate humanity. Francis had a deep belief in kinship with all people, especially the poor. Moreover, he came to despise money as something that separates people from one another. He recognized that money can entice us away from valuing people, animals and things for what they are – creations of God. Francis said, “If we had any possessions we should need weapons and laws to defend them.” Possessing something was the death of love for Francis. Human dignity is a right God gave to his own son as a reminder to the rest of us of how we should treat each other. St. Francis deeply understood this and preached it to his fellow brothers.
In our Gospel, we hear of the sacred bond between man and woman in the sacrament of matrimony. Francis never took a wife, though he did practice sacramental spirituality, seeing God in the concrete symbols of the sacraments. He lived in companionship with his followers. His experience of personal suffering, deep compassion for the suffering of others and the ability to still exude a childlike joy offers an image of the type of companion he would have been. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope.
Over the next months, I plan to deeper open my heart to the teachings and charisms of St. Francis. It is my belief that if we were all a little more like him, our world would undergo a transformation to the betterment of all, valuing creation, life, human dignity and peace as treasures worth preserving.
May we seek the courage to act justly toward all our fellow human beings, Let us pray…
May our society burn with the desire to transition away from a “culture of waste” to a culture of inclusiveness, Let us pray…
Excerpt from the Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon
by St. Francis of Assisi
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruit with colored flowers and herbs.
Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whom no one living can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.
Praise and bless my Lord and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.