By Sharon Wilson
Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi
I love learning about the saints in our Catholic tradition. We have a plethora of them and there are so many that I still need to get to know. Most of us never have heard of St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentistry or St. Drago, patron saint of coffee houses and unattractive people. (Weird huh!) I think we could spend a lifetime learning about these saints and learning from their lives.
There is a danger, though, in these times of sound bites and tweets. There are well known saints that are known by name but our society seems to have trivialized them into caricatures of themselves. St. Francis of Assisi seems to have gotten caught in this trap much like Saints Patrick and Valentine. The secular and common understanding of theses saints paint the picture of their faith that is incomplete. Contrary to popular belief, St. Patrick is not the saint of green beer and St. Valentine is not the CEO of Hallmark. Their lives are much deeper and richer than that.
Today you can see statues of St. Francis in gardens and paintings of him surrounded by animals. Many churches include blessings for pets and farm animals on his memorial. These are great things and are derived from the life of St. Francis, but if we end up believing that Francis’s life was about butterflies and flowers then we are missing the point of why he is a saint and how we can use his life to model our own.
One of my favorite stories about St. Francis is about how he heard Jesus speak to him and tell him to “rebuild my church.” Of course, he gathers materials like bricks and stones to rebuild the chapel in the hillside that had been in disrepair. Eventually God says to him, ‘Knock knock pudden head, I meant the people, not the building.” (That quotation of God talking is my own interpretation because I often sense God is saying the same to me.)
How many times in my thoughts have I felt a movement to act on behalf of what I think God may be asking me to do without proper discernment.
I seem to have a temperament like Francis, and this is why he makes a great teacher for me when I study his life in a deeper way.
Francis preached about returning to the Church, and obedience to the Church. Obedience has never been a strong suit for me so I look to Francis.
I look to St Francis when I need courage. After using his father’s materials to build the chapel, his father took him to authorities. Instead of bowing down to his father to go back to his materialistic way of life, Francis threw off his rich clothes and walked naked through the streets – well not totally naked. The bishop saw him and covered him with his own cloak. After this, his father disowned and disinherited Francis.
Following the will of God through obedience and humility are some of the lessons I learn from Francis above and beyond his friendship with the animals.
Today I will ponder how I can live a radical life following Christ and doing God’s will. Am I prepared to trust in God to provide if I follow Him? How can I (and you) discern, ponder and follow Christ in a deeper way with greater trust. Beyond the flowers and butterflies, God calls us to be saints!
About the Author:
Sharon Wilson – Wife, Mother, Writer, Catholic Speaker, and a WINE Specialist. Sharon has a degree in education and has worked as a freelance writer, Respect Life Coordinator, a teacher, in advertising, radio, buyer and in youth advocacy – She even rode an elephant in the circus once! Sharon speaks, writes and shares about God’s healing and about the great gift of being Catholic.