Monday, October 5, 2009

Feast Day: St. Francis of Assisi

I used to think of St. Francis as kind of a goody-goody saint.  The saint with the birds on his shoulder and the bunnies crouched at his feet.  The smiling, sweet, kindly saint who loved everyone. 

When I grew up (actually, I'm stilling growing up in my faith!), I began to read more about this little man with a huge heart from Italy.  I began to see that he was NOT, nor had he ever been, a goody-goody saint.  His life was hard and he was a hard-taskmaster for his brothers and sisters under his care.  He was tough for God ... whom he loved so much he asked for, and was granted, the stigmata ... a bleeding of five wounds in the same spots where Jesus bled on the Cross. 

St. Francis received the stigmata while on retreat at a mountain in LaVerna ... in the mountains near Assisi.  In 2000, we were privileged to stay in the guest house on this mountain.   Our original plan had been to use Chuisi dellaVerna Santuario as our base and visit Assisi and Siena ... but, as Francis and other holy Franciscans, we stayed and rested and reveled in the peace and beauty and sanctity of the mountain retreat, attending daily mass, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and meeting and eating with Franciscan sisters, brothers and priests -- most of whom only spoke Italian.  This was a very blessed time in the midst of our nearly four week Jubilee Pilgrimage to France and Italy, four weeks that were replete with blessings.

Let us also love our neighbors as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father's children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Dear Lord, help me to live more like St. Francis and less like me!  Help me to give completely, especially of all the things I THINK I need.  Help me to focus on You and not on what the world says I should.  Help me to love as You love.  AMEN!

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