This weekend we are blessed to welcome back to St. Anthony’s, in addition to a number of very familiar and frequent retreatants, a former staff member and dear friend, Fr. Dan Crosby. Fr. Dan has been gracious enough to return to St. Anthony’s almost every year to present a retreat for us, ever since he and Fr. Tom left in January 2014. This year he will present our Franciscan Living Retreat titled ”Learning From Pope Francis to be True Franciscans”.

Living a life of Gospel values as a Franciscan Christian has been especially challenging during the pandemic because our society is so bitterly divided. Franciscans are called to live in a way that is counter-cultural, not being drawn into conformity with the crowd. Many of those attending either in-person or virtually are vowed Secular Franciscans, others are “Franciscan at heart”, trying to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis. The latter group includes the residents and staff here at St. Anthony’s. We are confident Fr. Dan will offer all of us new insights, words of encouragement and, of course, challenges to continue to grow in our chosen vocation.

Vocation may seem like a strange word, but it is the best word to describe what it is to be Franciscan and a Christian. For those who have a limited understanding of who St. Francis was may struggle with why being a Franciscan is so counter-cultural. It may be that their image of St. Francis is what some have call “birthbath Francis”, the humble, gentle guy that the birds and squirrels love. But that aspect of who St. Francis was is such a small part of who he was and only a small part of why tens of thousands still follow in his footsteps.

One definition of vocation is, “a person’s . . . main occupation, especially regarded as particularly worthy and requiring great dedication”. Francis of Assisi consciously chose to walk away from the merchant class he was born into and live a life of simplicity and poverty. Francis chose concern for others, especially those living on the edge or outside of mainstream society, over personal comfort. Francis saw every part of creation as a brother or sister, giving to each equal respect and love. When Francis sought papal approval for the Rule of Life for his fledgling community, his choice was just as simple as his lifestyle: “to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without property and in chastity.” At first the Pope and his advisors scoffed, saying that rule was too hard to live, but Francis asked if that was not the call for all believers.

Committing to those choices 800 years ago or today should be regarded as particularly worthy and one that requires great dedication. We at St. Anthony’s have been blessed to have as role models many men and women who committed their lives to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and Francis.

For the gifts and blessing of our vocation as Franciscans and Christians, and role models who help strengthen our dedication to our vocation by their example, we say Deo Gratias!