03 October 2015

Eve of the Feast of Saint Francis (Reprised with tweaks to update)

The first two pictures here are taken of one of the small side chapel niches at Old Mission Santa Barbara. The first one shows the entire sculpture setting with statues of St Francis and St Clare along with the San Damiano Cross in the background. The second is a close up of a portion of this setting which I have used before; it was a gift given to me on this Feast Day the year before last and is my favorite statue of St Francis. The third stands in the (private) covenant courtyard of the Mission and is another contemporary rendering through which a Father worked out his grief over the loss of his son.

Today St Francis' popularity and influence (inspiration!) is more striking than it has been in a very long time. We see it animating a relatively new Pope to transform the Church in light of Vatican II and to live a simple Gospel-centered life just as Francis of Assisi was inspired by God to do. We see it in the renewed emphasis of the Church on evangelization and ecumenism where the One God who stands behind all true religious impulses is honored while he is proclaimed most fully and revealed with the most perfect transparency in the crucified Christ. We see it in a renewed sense of the cosmic Christ and in a growing sensitivity to the sacredness and interconnectedness of all creation.  Saint Francis lived the truth of the Gospel with an honesty, transparency (poverty), and integrity which captures the imagination of everyone who meets him in some significant way -- something that happens for so many in his papal namesake. This saint inspires a hope and joy that only the God who overcomes death and brings eternal life through an unconditional mercy and love that does justice could do. He renews our hope in Christ that our own Church and world might well reveal the glory of this God as they are meant to do. Saint Francis is a gift to the Church in ways which are hard to overstate.

On this Feast Day of Saint Francis of Assisi I feel privileged to celebrate this great man (saint) and all those who go by the name of Franciscan . In particular I celebrate friends and Sisters like Ilia Delio whose book, Making All Things New, I am reading right now --- and which I highly recommend! [It is as readable as her books on Saint Clare, Franciscan Prayer, or The Humility of God and explores some of the theological implications of an unfinished universe and the "new cosmology. What is "new" here is that she does so with regard to classic topics more typically associated with the whole history systematic or dogmatic theology (e.g., the nature of Catholicity and the Church, the last things, putting on the Mind of Christ, etc).]  I also especially give thanks for Pope Francis, a shepherd so clearly inspired by Saint Francis and the Crucified Christ --- and one whose trip to the US I am still processing (and recovering from!). Our world is simply a better place with a more truly Christian presence, sensibility, and spirit because of Saint Francis and those who seek to live his way. Peace and all Good!