A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE FEAST OF ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FATHER OF THE SERAPHIC ORDER



















Pax et Bonum to you all on this glorious day that commemorates the feast of our Holy Father Francis! Nonetheless, today is a blogger's nightmare, simply because there is so much to say about the Seraphic Father! Today, I will let my heart do the talking….and try to couch in words everything that this little tramp from Assisi means to me.

St. Francis of Assisi was one of the wisest men who had ever lived. The word 'wise' seems paradoxical when you consider his life. His father, Pietro Bernadone, toiled all his life so that he could provide his son Francis with what he never had. Indeed, Francis had "everything going for him"- an education, popularity, money, athletic prowess, and a lucrative military, business, and political career ahead of him. But with one bold move in the middle of the public square, Francis threw away everything that "made him something" in the world's eyes…..his money, his last name, even his fashionable clothes. So why on earth did I use the word "wise" to describe him, when he consciously chose to shun any chances that he had for earthly glory?

I don't have the exact quote, but Plato's Socrates said something to the effect that a person is truly wise only when he realizes that he knows nothing. Similarly, Francis was truly wise because he realized that he was nothing without God. Moreover, he recognized that he would be brought to ultimate fulfillment only when he totally emptied himself of all the things that held him back from complete obedience to Christ. Thus, by releasing himself of distractions such as ambition, desire for wealth, the pursuit of pleasure, Francis was among men most truly free! Many saints have used various methods of conveying God's Truth…..Thomas Aquinas taught others about God's love via his writing, Dominic through his preaching, and Francis' very life was a living testament of divine love!

Francis was the 13th-Century counterpart of the "rich young man" from the Gospels, a figure whom most people might think is incapable of being redeemed by Christ. Indeed, St. Francis has been nicknamed "God's juggler" because he took the story of the "rich young man" and turned it on its head, illustrating the great things that God can do when we empty ourselves of everything and open ourselves unto Him entirely. In doing so, this "rich young man" became among the holiest of men!

How can we live out the spirit of poverty promulgated by Holy Father Francis? The way that I have come to think about it is that poverty isn't necessarily always living an ascetic life, but it is rather abandoning yourself entirely at God's mercy without any regard for the material benefits that may or may not be associated with that Divine plan. Spiritual poverty involves a childlike trust that God can and will provide for your needs, despite the fact that following His will is seen as foolish in the world's eyes.

From the perspective of our society and culture, Francis' life is a complete paradox. We're expected to "market ourselves," yet Francis told himself that "God and others must increase, I must decrease." We strive to make more money than anyone else because we think that the things we can buy with it will fulfill us, but Francis realized that only God can provide us with fulfillment. Nonetheless, it is so difficult for us to live our lives based upon the belief that God is our only fulfillment. What made Francis so remarkable was that he had the courage to radically base his entire life upon God's love.

The ideals of our beloved Holy Father Francis were re-affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI in his inauguration homily in April, 2005. Below is an excerpt from the homily:

"If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to Him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom?....No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation…Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and He gives you everything. When we give ourselves to Him, we receive a hundred-fold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ - and you will find true life. Amen."

Holy Father Francis, intercede for us that we too may be able to 'open wide the doors to Christ!'

2 Comments:

Blogger Kelly Joyce Neff said...

Thank you Chiara! you have Francis and his whole life and worldview and meaning right here. No longer books could say it better.
Pax et Bonum!

9:20 PM  
Blogger Brother Lesser said...

Yes, thank you, Chiara.

I was once told by a doctor's wife that she was afraid to give "everything" to God. She had seen first hand what it meant to give everything to God because the person who had done so lost everything. Therefore, she would only give so much of herself to God for fear that He might take it all, and she was not willing to lose her prestige and comfortable way of life.

My heart ached for her, knowing that because of her attitude, God would give to her what she gave to Him...and no more.

9:10 AM  

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