Sunday, October 4, 2009

Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi

It's the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!

Now St. Francis is, arguably, one of the most popular saints (no matter your denomination or even if you have any belief system at all) of all time. Period. He is, if you will, a rock star of saints. Which, yes I know, is oppositional to all that sainthood is about, but there you have it. He is. He is known and loved around the world.

But you know, my issue, and one that kind of has kept me from getting too close to St. Francis, is that he is too often sentimentalized into a sort of "saint-lite." It seems like only the fluttery bird loving Francis is ever depicted. Churchs all over love to do the blessing of the animals in honor of St. Francis. Well, ok. I like animals too and we all know he loved them and talked to them and that's very cool.

But really, St. Francis was a radical! He came from a very wealthy family and after living the wild life for years, to the despair of his folks, he had a radical conversion and threw it all away, literally (stripping to the skin in the public square and renouncing his inheritance...not the way I'd encourage youth to model today, but still....). He then went to devote himself to poverty and prayer and building up the Church, literally and figuratively, in joy. Even by the standards of the day, way back when, he was a holy radical. That's the St. Francis that I like to think about, the one that draws me in and wonder, but is too often unrecognized.

Painting by Murillo, "St. Francis at Prayer"

My favorite thing about St. Francis, really, are these guys!! Also radicals for Joy, totally countercultural...... They are awesome and just light up a room when they are around. I tend to want to follow them around like a puppy. They are magnetic in their joy and just pull you to them!

Fransiscan Friars of the Renewal on tour of Ireland.

So, happy feast day!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!


1 comment:

Christine said...

I went to the funeral for a very dear friend of mine. She died at the age of 42 from breast cancer. The priest said that in heaven the saints walk in a line praying throughout the day and at the end of the line is St Francis, who dances. He said he would hold my friend's hand. I felt enormous relief. I think you are right about the 'rock star' description, deserved or not, it was a comfort to me.