A Saint for all Seasons!
On October 4th, we celebrate the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. What an extraordinary personality! A saint whose fascination can span eight centuries and lose nothing of its appeal, a man eminently accessible to men and women of our time who spontaneously warm to him. Few saints manage to do that these days!
But everyone loves Francis, though often for vague and misguided motives.
If you want to discover the real St. Francis, that original, unique and incomparable man of God, you have to see beyond the sentimental images of Francis preaching to the birds, taming the wolf of Gubbio and singing joyfully as he roamed the countryside begging. There are so many facets to his rich personality; here I can mention only few.
Francis is first and foremost a free man. He took the Gospel literally and gave himself totally and radically to the service of the Kingdom of God. He did not wait for the social system to change before doing anything himself; instead, he set out to change his own life, making himself poor so that he could announce the Good News to other poor people.
Francis is a man of peace. His concern over universal brotherhood led him to overthrow a good many barriers and he met a wide spectrum of his contemporaries: the rich and the famous as well as lepers, beggars and bandits. With extraordinary simplicity he addressed himself to everybody, and the magnetism of his infectious faith drew the crowds to him.
Francis is a man of prayer. He never stopped praising, adoring, contemplating, interceding. He spent long periods in the solitude of a hermitage. He composed prayers based on the Psalms, on the words of Jesus, on his own life experience. Though he has left us only a few pages of praises and Gospel precepts he is nonetheless a genuine mystic.
Francis is a passionate lover, swept off his feet by Jesus Christ. He followed Christ even to Calvary, receiving in his own flesh the marks of the Passion.
It may seem a strange paradox, but it was at the close of his life when he was at the end of his strength, stigmatized, suffering without relief both physically and morally, that he reached the summit of perfect joy and composed the Canticle of the Creatures. He needed to attain the very heart of the Paschal Mystery of death and Resurrection before he could express this hymn in which the whole of creation is reconciled with God and in Him recovers its pristine integrity.
Our current preoccupations with freedom, with peace, with life, with happiness,
with respect for God’s creation, all these aspirations are suggested
to us by Francis of Assisi.
That is why his message still appeals to us to follow Christ as he did.
He loved to repeat: “God IS: that is enough!”.
His message leads us back to the essentials and shows us
where to find peace and joy.
Odile Brandin, fmm