Sunday, October 4, 2009

Prayer of St. Francis

Today is a Sunday as well as the feast of St. Francis. Double Feast-Day Whammee! Whoo hoo!

Usually, when saints' feast days fall on a Sunday, they are trumped by the Feast of the Resurrection (you, know...the feasts which ARE our Sundays? )Understandably so! But St. Francis is sooo well liked, that people are still acknowledging him today (again, understandably so!) But don't go treking out to that birdfeeder you got in your backyard with St. Francis on it just yet...

As popular as St. Francis is, I still think he kind of gets a bad wrap. Well, maybe bad is not the word, but I don't think he is recognized for all that he is. People just recognize him as the guy who calmed a wolf and digs nature/animals. This can turn him into kind of a mushy-hippie 'sissy' from Assisi. (though there is NOTHING wrong with hippies! My parents still stage sit-ins in their living room...)

It's just not true. Francis was a rich soldier who came from a family of wealth and went off to war. He had a conversion during the war when he became hurt and sick. This post-war Francis is what we think of when we think of him, but I like to remember him because of his powerful conversion.

He wasn't a 'sissy'. Any guy who stands up to the Bishop and his rich dad and takes off his fancy clothes to don rags is hardcore! And God felt so too. He called Francis to 'rebuild' his church. And, like many of us, Francis misinterpretted that call. He literally thought it was to build a church- again, not a sissy thing to do! Layering stones and bricks- ya gotta be tough! But then we he realized that meant figuratively re-buidling the Church- even tougher.

I looked seriously at a Franciscan order before realizing I probably had more in common with the Pauline way of life. (St. Francis might be tough in some ways, but St. Paul is uber-tough). Not to compare the two, but stonings and exiles and speaking with a double-edge sword? That's just more along the lines with this sassy, thick exterior that God has given ME. Though,clearly, I'm drawn to Franciscan types too! We Paul-types need the Francis'in our lives to balance us out. (Though you will NEVER see me, I'm pretty sure, cuddling up and cooing with small animals. If you do, that will be the time for exile and stones...just kidding ;)

But that's why I like to remember the other things about St. Francis- his radical conversion, his renunciation of wealth, his mis-interpretation of God's call but then an obedience to discerning and following the true call.

And one of my favorite things I read about St. Francis when I was discerning, was his relationship with Lady Poverty. I think this concept that Francis developed and embraced is a way for all of us to live, but it's probably especially helpful to guys who are embracing the life of celibacy. It gives them an image- a woman- to fight for, to live for, to honor. I know that St. Therese (who's feast was just 3 days ago- shout out Therese!) gave such beautiful, flowery descriptions of her beloved-Jesus- that were helpful to me when I am trying to renounce everything and make Jesus my first love. So Francis describes Lady Poverty as a worthy figure to embrace and love for men (and women) alike.

Francis is also remembered by this prayer (that he most likely may not have actually developed, but certainly lived)

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

This is prayer is hard. core!! No sissy can ASK to love, console, and understand more than they are loved, consoled, or understood. Shoot.

And that is something I believe Francis believed and understood and lived and why I want to model myself after him. His radical love for Christ and Lady Poverty. Amen!

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!! (Just don't ask me to snuggle up to Bambi any time soon, okay? I'm not there yet ;)


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