Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Feast of St. Francis: A light touch and a reflection

   Yesterday our community here at St. Anthony Friary celebrated the feast of St. Francis.  The celebration began on Sunday night with a ceremony that we Franciscans call the Transitus.  Transitus is a Latin word for Passing and the ceremony recalls the death of St. Francis. Yesterday we had a wonderful Mass and a great dinner afterward.  I was asked to do the honors of slicing the nice selection of beef that was served. I thought you might enjoy the picture to the right.
   For several days I have been drifting between several thoughts about Francis that I might share with you.  Francis, like many saints, was a many faceted man. He loved animals and nature.  He loved lepers and other poor people.  He loved the Church and above all he loved the Lord.  One of the blogs that I link to on this page is  Whispers in the Loggia. If you go to that you will notice that there is a reference, with Francis in mind, of Pope Benedict's love of cats, as well as one recalling Francis initial call to "Go and Rebuild my house,  for it is falling into ruin,"a timely reference in this era of so many calls for Church reform. Whispers in the Loggia2 I would like to comment on both of these aspects of Francis' life and the role of our order in the Church and in the word.
   Many Franciscan Churches celebrate the blessing of animals on or around this feast, including St. Mary's here in St. Petersburg, run by the Third Order Regular friars. Some of our friars from St. Anthony's help out with this each year. At one time I considered this practice nice, but kind of silly.  My thoughts have changed greatly over the years.  In addition to the fact that it draws young people and families it highlights an important part of Francis life and of our spirituality.  Early on in his spiritual journey Francis was searching to discover his place in life, what God wanted him to do. As Fr. Rod Petrie, OFM, a member of our Ministry of the Word team, pointed out yesterday in his homily that in a deep moment of prayer he realized that before God he was a creature, a human being yes, but a creature, one who is created by God, and therefore a brother to all creatures.  Understanding ourselves in this was allows us Franciscans to offer to the world a spirituality of connectedness to the created order, seeing ourselves as part of it rather than as standing above it. That is why Francis is seen by the Church as the patron of ecology and we friars and other members of the Franciscan family are entrusted with the task of helping all people to see this, and to care well for the planet on which the Creator has placed us.
   As for the need to rebuild the house of the Lord , that call is just as true now as it was in the early 1200's when Francis heard this call from the Lord.  But beware, many folks, too many I think, hear the call for reform and launch out on angry crusades to change rules or to make sure they are enforced.  Francis and the early friars did none of that, they merely lived the Gospel, preaching by their actions, thereby showing others by example how we should be Church.  He never denounced abuses, though they were many, he showed the way instead.  We need more of that today.
To the right you can see me blessing animals at St. Francis of Assisi in Hilton Head Island during a mission in 2007 as well as Pope Benedict with the aforementioned cat.(picture taken from the blog, Whispers in the Loggia)

   A belated happy feast of St. Francis to all!

With any of these pics just click on them to enlarge them.

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