Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Francesco di Bernardone

His simplicity and poverty alienated him from or endeared him to his contemporaries. His fresh and honest boldness drew a sultan’s heart to his Savior and to the path of peace. His utter conformity to the pattern of the gospel attracted Christ Himself, by whom he received in a mystery the signs of His passion imprinted in his flesh. His gentleness brought nature’s creatures to full obedience to a son of Adam, revealing possibly for the first time in history the truth that Paradise is no mere myth, confirming Christ’s word that it still exists, ‘I tell you, today you will be with Me…’

When first I wrote this, it was a rainy evening. I thought, how apt for the feast day of this blessed saint, who trod homeless miles in the winter rains of Italy, begging his bread, not because he was too lazy to work for it, but because in working he never asked for wages. Knowing for Whom he labored, he expected his faithful Lord to supply all his needs, and he was never disappointed. We peer at Francesco of Assisi across a chasm more than eight centuries wide, squinting, because our eyes cannot look directly at him any more than we can gaze at the sun. God became Man once, and that was enough. Now this

Personally, this is my ‘other name day.’ Yes, that name, Francis, has claimed someone in every generation of my family, my father, me, and my fourth son. Not just the name, either, but hopefully a share of his spirit. I too want to be included among his ‘little brothers’ even though I am unworthy. Like the rich young man in the gospel story, I have often gone away sad at the word of Christ, instead of joyfully and confidently following His command. I am no better than anyone else. We have all fallen short, but here is one who, once as fallen as us, dared to follow his Master…

Brother Francis, you spent your youth in earthly revelry, providing generously to your companions not from your own, but from your father’s store of, wealth. We find that we never really change: what we are deep inside we always remain: it is the pattern of our being. You also remained the same, but you exchanged the old world for the new, to become the herald of the age to come, providing generously to us, once more, not what was yours, but your Father’s. Following your Master Jesus as He walks in our needy world, pray for us, and help us, to find the heavenly treasure of Paradise.

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