I looked out my window this morning, and under a late-blooming dogwood tree stood a new St. Francis statue. Like so many other depictions, he was clean-shaven, holding a small dish for the birds to feast, with wild and tame animals resting at his side.
It dawned to me at this moment that today was the feast of one of my favorite saints. Like many other days this year, my sense of the calendar is confused and at times, lost in the imbalance.
As I stared at this generous representation of an almost 800-year old historical and heavenly figure, my thoughts turned not to the familiar but to the uncomfortable. I did not find solace in his legendary tales or in my own uplifting Franciscan spiritual journey. I found conflict and deep yearning.
I looked within and wondered how am I in relationship with God, and with neighbor and stranger alike?
How am I responding to the brokenness, the division, the injustice?
How might God be calling me to be a louder instrument of peace?
Francis, in his life-well-lived was often overwhelmed by the spiritual and physical poverty that filled the streets of Assisi. His conversion to rebuild God’s Church meant a re-imagining of society, honoring simplicity and service with a community of like-minded people. He yearned for the deepest relationship with God- finding the divine in brother sun, sister moon, and the leper along the broken road.
The legacy of Francis occurred with the backdrop of war and injustice. Only because of his deep relationship with God, could he write, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”
That divine candle that shined within Francis shines within us. It is our birthright. The difference between Francis and so many of us is that he truly believed it.
Most years, the feast day of this great saint is often accompanied by celebrations with a look to the past. This year is different, and so is this reflection as it calls us to action. It is time to shine our light even brighter.
“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way,” Francis tells us. This direction is heard within the division, the suffering, and the confusion that these days present.
It is easy to relate to the man who loved animals, who joyfully danced in the fields, and who sang to the heavens. It is much harder, and might I write, more important and timely, to join his journey toward justice, solidarity, and unconditional love.
As this feast day comes to a close, God-willing tomorrow awaits us. Might these words from our beloved companion ignite your day and your life:
“Lord, help me to live this day, quietly, easily. To lean upon Thy great strength, trustfully, restfully. To wait for the unfolding of Thy will, patiently, serenely. To meet others, peacefully, joyously. To face tomorrow, confidently, courageously.”