On October 3, 1226, a young 45 year old friar of Assisi named Francis died. In his brief life he experienced a transformation that changed his life and he brought about a transformation that changed the Church and society at large. He had a vision of a renewed Church that led to a dream of a new way of living life that was rooted in the Gospels. His vision caught on ... and his dream became a way of life.
On October 3, 2020, 794 years after the young Francis died, an older Francis, who chose his name in honor of the Saint of Assisi when he became Pope, celebrated Mass at the tomb of the other Francis in Assisi, and then signed and promulgated an Encyclical Letter entitled "FRATELLI TUTTI" on the Fraternity and Social Friendship. The encyclical was published on the feast of Saint Francis, the 4th of October. Here is how the encyclical begins:
"FRATELLI TUTTI" ["Brothers and sisters all"]. With these words, Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother 'as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him'. In this simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.
This saint of fraternal love, simplicity and joy, who inspired me to write the Encyclical " LAUDATO SI' " ["Praise be to You" from the Canticle of Saint Francis - an encyclical "on the care for our common home"], prompts me once more to devote this new Encyclical to fraternity and social friendship. Francis felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew that he was even closer to those of his own flesh. Wherever he went, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters."
Pope Francis continues: "It is my desire that, in this our time, by acknowledging the dignity of each human person, we may contribute to the rebirth of a universal aspiration to fraternity. Fraternity between all men and women. [As the Holy Father said in an address at the Ecumenical and Interreligious Meeting with Young People in Skopje, North Macedonia, on 7 May 2019]. 'Here we have a splendid secret that shows us how to dream and to turn our life into a wonderful adventure. No one can face life in isolation ... We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together ... By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.' Let us dream, then, as a single human family, as fellow travelers sharing the same flesh, as children of the same earth which is our common home, each of us bringing the richness of his or her beliefs and convictions, each of us with his or her own voice, brothers and sisters all."
I look forward to sharing aspects of this Encyclical Letter as they touch my heart, and I encourage you to find a copy soon and prayerfully read it.