Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
The month of October celebrates the lives of many founders of religious communities; today we celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. The special scripture readings help us joyfully celebrate with our worldwide Franciscan sisters and brothers – as well as our Holy Father, Pope Francis, "Bishop of Rome", on his feast day. (No doubt, the life and charism of St. Francis has received special attention in recent months!)
In the selection from Paul’s letter to the Galatians, Paul truly "boasts" in Jesus Crucified and looks to the Cross of Jesus as the means of salvation. Saint Matthew’s gospel selection shares the priestly prayer of Jesus — praising the Father, and inviting one and all to leave everything to come to Him and be refreshed and enlightened. Saint Francis of Assisi heard that personal call of Jesus in the 12th Century, gave himself wholeheartedly to Jesus, and began an exemplary life of praise, sacrifice and service, Then some six centuries later, our own St. Paul of the Cross was called to further build upon the spiritual foundation of Francis’ life.
To "boast" of Jesus Crucified and God’s mercy; to praise God in all aspects of creation; to "rest" in the Lord and "learn" what it means to really love God and neighbor — Jesus offers a transformation of life through joyful love, poverty, humility, and simplicity. What a message for our times!
The Scriptures came alive for Francis of Assisi. His carefree youth was radically changed by the call of Jesus; he renounced his personal possessions and changed his life to one of evangelical poverty and preaching. Francis’ life witness was truly charismatic, compassionate, and loving of all God’s creation; God called others to join him in community. Francis compiled a "rule of life" and established a number of religious communities of both men and women. In the 44 short years of his life, he sparked a spiritual renewal that continues to inspire men and women of all ages and walks of life, in all parts of the world.
Today, Francis challenges us: how do I respect God’s presence in people, nature, created things? How do I reflect simplicity and humility in my life? How do I help reflect God’s mercy and compassion, and thus build up the Church?
Francis invites us to "boast in Jesus Crucified", and praise God in our simplicity and respect for God’s life in all creation. And so we pray this day: "O Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Francis and our Brother Passionist Paul Daneo: together we rejoice in the Lord and boast in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ!"
Fr. John Schork, C.P. is the local leader of the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky.