Monday, October 04, 2010

History's Most Famous Christian

After almost ten years of daily Mass at at Franciscan parish, I find myself thinking that St. Francis is really the man for our times. He really is the "universal brother": recognized and appreciated not just by Catholics or members of the mainline Churches, but pretty much across the board--and not just because of birdbaths or his namesake city. In a way, St. Francis sums up what people mean when they even think of what a saint is: totally devoted to God and people, forgetful of self, welcoming of the other, reverent toward all creatures, even the smallest. Where's the world religion that finds this incongruous? Francis would be a saint in any of them, even though he was the most Christian and Catholic of men; probably the most Catholic and Christian man in history.
That kind of holiness is attractive--we know this well from our experience of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul. In the 13th century, without benefit of any form of media technology, stories of Francis spread across Europe durin g his (woefully brief) lifetime. Thousands left their homes and businesses to become friars with him; well-to-do women slipped away from their comfortable homes and familial expectations to live in extreme poverty as "Poor Ladies"; other men and women created a new form of consecrated life in order to take Francis' spiritual approach to life into the heart of the family. Even in his lifetime, he was probably the most famous person on earth.
And Francis, Catholic and Christian that he was, had a missionary heart. In an era of Crusades, he sought not to conquer, but to convert the "Turks," and, though failing in that quest, he created cross-cultural relationships that endure to this day in the form of the Franciscan presence and influence in the Holy Land! The man was 1,000 years ahead of his time! But that is because he was "the most Christ-like man since Christ."
His feast day calls to all of us, as if in the words of St. Paul: "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."

Does St. Francis have a special place in your life?


Anonymous said...

I just presented to my grandson a coloring book featuring St. Francis and the story of his love of all creatures. The 8 yr old was so exuberant that I plan to pick up many more copies of this book to delight many more people. A statue of st. Francis adorns my garden with his hands extended and holding two receptacles for water. There are birds on his shoulders illustrating his kindness to all.

Anonymous said...

Amen to all the above! And (believe it or not!) yes, he has a special place in my life. And those who feel that way can't help thinking that we have a special place in his! I did look into the SFO years ago, after discerning for, like, 20 years and noticing certain characteristics.. I wasn't ready for a second vocation (prayer-wise) and fraternities are few and far between, but that means very little to him--he is quite near, especially in requests for greater humility and holiness. The Tau is hovering above my heart, unseen, but there. How about you?