If you are a convert to Catholicism as I am, you likely pay attention to how frequently certain Saints’ names are mentioned by others and also at Mass. Therese, (the little flower), John Vianney, Don Bosco, and even new saints like Kateri Tekakwitha and Brother Andre Bessette. But Francis of Assisi seems to lead the way for all. October is the month we remember Holy Father Francis and I’ve been reading “The Lessons of St. Francis” by John Michael Talbot to find out why this 800 year old story is so powerful. And, it isn’t lost on me that I am writing this from St. Anthony’s at this moment-a Franciscan House. It’s peaceful here.
Since this is a reflection and not a book review (I hope you will read it) I will say I think it is easy to get Francis’ legacy very wrong. If you have heard or read anything about Francis usually you will get pulled into his environmentalism, pacifism, awe of the created world, creatures and plants and life in any form. This is, after all, the man who talked with a wolf (Brother Wolf) and asked him to please stop killing everything, (the wolf explained why-Francis brokered Peace) and also the man who moved earthworms out of the road so they wouldn’t be trampled on. He had a synergy with nature unlike anyone that ever lived. It was miraculous without question.
The Francis I didn’t know was far more complex than these wonderful things. Francis had a great deal to say about human creativity and urged all to use their gifts of every kind, to make life more beautiful for those entrusted to them. Live in joy! Live in fullness! He himself was a gifted poet. But Francis could also be harsh with irresponsible human behavior. He had a zero tolerance policy with gossips (“they are biting fleas”) and trash talkers (“let them eat dung”). Francis knew the power that words have on our vulnerable souls. Francis craved civility. Do we?
The Francis I didn’t know practiced a type of medicine what I think we would call today “holistic”. In other words, we do not respect each other, so we do not respect the earth. But if we did, things would go better. We search for peace, but are we speaking peace first? We worry about having enough, so we do not share as we could-and ponder why there are so many poor. We can do better. Is it possible we could reawaken to Francis’ vision, which really is Jesus Christ’s? I think we can. I think we must.
As is my custom, I share a painting I have done about Francis. Holy Father Francis, pray for us!