Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis: Neither a Proto-Activist nor a Garden Gnome

St. Francis was not this tame (source).
I’ll make a terrible revelation:  I have precious little devotion to St. Francis.

It is certainly not that I have anything against him.  He seems to have been a swell fellow and his followers have done countless good deeds for centuries.  I just don’t like the company he’s been keeping for the last 50 years or so.  If being turned into yard art were not bad enough, poor Francis has found himself uniquely adaptable to the whims of the zeitgeist.  It seems everyone is able to find what they want in him.

Let me make a small contribution to setting the record straight:

1.  St. Francis preached a charism of radical poverty.  He wouldn’t have driven a hybrid; he would have taken the bus.  
2.  When Christ spoke to him from the crucifix at San Damiano, he took the commandment to rebuild the church literally and he didn’t make it over in terra cotta and burlap. 
3.  He received the stigmata and bore the pain because he believed his participation in Christ’s suffering was meritorious—not a popular view these days.
4.  As a friend in Philly liked to remind us, as a deacon, Francis donned the dalmatic and chanted the gospel at High Mass. He never met Marty Haugen.

In short, St. Francis was far more than a proto-activist for our favorite causes or a garden gnome.

Happy feast day, St. Francis.  I think a lot of people are going to be surprised when they meet the real you.