Musings on St. Francis

I am not a “natural” Franciscan.

Even the tamest and most domesticated of animals tend to run the other way when they see me coming!

I have always liked “nice things” and during my discernment process, I grappled with the idea of giving up my expensive Italian furniture, smoked salmon and decadent hot chocolate (the kind with the cream, chocolate stick and powdering on top).

So, what was it that attracted me to a specifically Franciscan community, a fact that amused no small number of my family members and friends?

In a nutshell, it was the fact that St. Francis loved the good things in this life on a natural level too! But….and this is a big but, he was willing to sacrifice these on many occasions for the greater good of drawing himself and others closer to Christ. He lived his life preparing his soul and the souls of others for the pinnacle moment of life – the moment of meeting Christ face to face in death.

So what did the taste buds of St. Francis gravitate toward? The “Assisi Compilation 8” states that on his deathbed Francis said in reference to a close friend Lady Jacopa “have her also send some of those sweets which she often (note: often!) made for me when I was in the city, the confection made of almonds, sugar and honey that the Romans call mostacciolo”. Sounds good, no?

Pre-conversion, St. Francis was picky with his food, turning away with a wry face from distasteful morsels. He also dressed handsomely and avoided the malnourished and contagious lepers, sensing that he was even more revolted than others by their odorous sores.

But post conversion, St. Francis was very different. Everything was assessed through a finer Christocentric lens according to the following Scripture passage:

“Those things I used to consider gain I have now reappraised as loss in the light of Christ. I have come to rate all as loss in the light of the surpassing knowledge of my Lord Jesus Christ. For his sake I have forfeited everything; I have accounted all else rubbish so that Christ may be my wealth. I wish to know Christ and the power flowing from his resurrection; likewise to know how to share in his sufferings by being formed into the pattern of his death”. Philippians 3:7-8,10

It was not that he gave up all good things. No. There were still times and seasons for celebrations and enjoyment of legitimate goods and pleasures. But the lens was different. He chose to “die” to whatever would hold him back from the greater good of running spiritually barefoot toward Him whom he loved with every sinew and blood vessel of his being.

His love was passionate and all-consuming and involved sacrifice for a greater good.

My Dad who passed away on  May 30, 2015 was at heart very Franciscan. He too chose to die to himself in so many ways throughout his life, as a means of growing closer to Christ and bringing us (and others) with him.

By way of a small example, I remember having many parties in our family home that resulted in some really good leftovers, the kind that are even better the following day. My Dad, who incidentally had a very “sweet tooth,” would regularly box up all the leftovers and bring them into St. Kevin’s Capuchin Day Center for the Poor in the center of Dublin, Ireland.

To my Franciscan shame, my protests to keep some (just some) of the leftovers for ourselves were ignored. Good as those leftovers were, and legitimate as it would have been to keep some of them, my Dad wanted to give all, not just what we didn’t really want.

My Dad and St. Francis have both taught me that those “mini-deaths” along the way of life are a key preparation for the ultimate death that we will all face some day. After all, we will take none of these good things with us. As it says in First Timothy chapter 6,
St. Francis on his death bed

“For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it”.

I came across a very interesting website just recently - Thousands of men in this organization fast on bread and water for one day a month for their wives or other important women in their lives. Isn’t that powerful?! Check it out if you can. On their website they also quote St. John Vianney (no doubt St. Francis would heartily agree with him) who said:

“My friend, the devil is not greatly afraid of the discipline and other instruments of penance. That which beats him is the curtailment of one’s food, drink, and sleep. There is nothing the devil fears more, consequently, nothing is more pleasing to God. Oh! How often have I experienced it! ... - it happened at times that I refrained from food for entire days . On those occasions I obtained, both for myself and others, whatsoever I asked of Almighty God."

Isn’t it amazing to think that our sacrifices offered with great love to God do help to prepare us for death, and draw down so many graces for our own souls and those of others?

St. Francis, pray for us!

-Sr. Miriam O’Callaghan, T.O.R.

You may also like

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.