Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Francis of Assisi

     October 4th has always been a great day of celebration in my life, ever since I became aware of the saint of that day, Francis of Assisi.  The story of his life in the late 1100's and early 1200's is one of simple faith, poverty and humility, and transforming love that is as important today as it always has been.  In our complicated world, self-centered and commercial, absorbed in power and greatness, the message of simplicity of life and joy of  heart is refreshing.  It almost seems too ideal, too make believe to be real or practical.  If it were not lived out in the life of Francis and his early followers, it would be a fairy tale.  But it is real.

     Francis appeared at a moment in history when the Church was absorbed in itself and in need of renewal.  After Francis, in a moment of conversion, renounced all for the sake of the gospel and embraced poverty, the message of love found in the gospels and the joy of heart found in those that responded to the call of Jesus became a reality in his small portion of Italy, and spread to all corners of the earth.  Francis is honored by people of every religion and even those of none.  The Lord told him to "rebuild the Church" ... and before realizing the greater implications of that call, saw his task as being the rebuilding of a small church outside of Assisi - San Damiano.  The story is well known, and tremendously beautiful.

     This evening our small community of retired priests had a movie night, and watched Franco Zeffirelli's wonderful movie of 1972 - "Brother Sun, Sister Moon".  Zeffirelli knows how to make a beautiful film, and this one was no exception.  I saw the movie years ago, but it was good to see it once again.

   I have had the blessing of visiting Assisi on at least three occasions, and found great peace in the hillside community of Francis and Clare.  Their spirit obviously pervades the town after these 800 years.  And the spirit of Francis of Assisi is still sought after by the restless of heart and often found by those who seek the joy of life.

    On this feast of Francis of Assisi, the troubadour of the great King, may his joy of life and his respect for all of God's creation find a home in our hearts, and continue to renew the Church, under the leadership of another Francis.

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