While the big news this week has been the presidential debate, Saint Francis’ Feast Day has been slowly, stealthily drawing close. Saint Francis’ Day is celebrated every October 4th. Francis is recognized as a saint in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, and he truly was a reformer of the church years before any “reformation”. The Franciscan vows of poverty (generous and non-materialistic living), chastity (seeking purity in one’s state), and obedience (not living just to please self, but living under authority), were directly counter-cultural in Francis’ time of a church which was fairly carnal and money-driven.
Rebuild My Church
Francis had a vision of Jesus in which Francis was instructed to “Rebuild my church.” At first he took this very literal, rebuilding the stones and mortar of a small chapel, but, ultimately, the Franciscan movement became a much needed revitalization of the church by mainly lay-people as hardly any of the early Franciscans were ordained clergy. Prayer and street preaching were the primary jobs of this mendicant order who relied on God, work, and begging for their basic sustenance. Not even having a monastery to call their own, they slept wherever they could: in the woods, the fields, and even in a large medieval town oven on cold nights after the embers had died down but the stone was still warm. A dozen people or more would squeeze in to escape the cold. Here Francis realized Christ’s presence surrounded by the poor and homeless.
Having A Little Humility
Humility, though not a vow, is interwoven throughout the Franciscan ideal. This well known prayer attributed to Saint Francis reflects such:
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. Amen
If God Can Work Through Me…
There is a lot of dying to self implied here. The kind of dying emulates the life of Jesus. But it’s not unattainable, unless you’re relying solely on yourself. Francis said,
“I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, he can work through anyone.”
Saint Francis wasn’t always a saint, and that should give the rest of us some hope.
Many churches observe offering a Franciscan Pet Blessing near his Feast Day. Animals were vital for the work and life of people in Francis’ day, and in our day we continue to have a close relationship with our animals as they are pretty much family to us. The pet blessing is a way to show a community that God cares about our animals as well; it’s a great way to bless the people of the greater community in your area.
This really is the point and the challenge that Francis left us: How can we bless the world around us? How can we bring faith, hope, and light to combat doubt, despair, and darkness? How can we understand, love, give, and pardon those around us and let the kingdom come?
“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
That is our job as the church the other 166 hours of the week while we are outside of the church walls. How is Jesus calling us to rebuild the church in our time?